SEVILLE, Spain (AFP) — The Czech Republic earned an impressive 3-0 victory over defending champions Switzerland in their Billie Jean King Cup finals opener on Tuesday.
Marie Bouzkova and Linda Noskova triumphed in singles matches to give the Czechs an unassailable lead before the doubles rubber in Group A, dubbed “the Group of Death,” including record 18-time winners the United States.
Noskova defeated Celine Naef 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-4 in a long battle of two 18-year-old debutants before Bouzkova saw off the in-form Viktorija Golubic 6-4, 6-4.
Then Czech doubles pairing Barbora Krejckova and Katerina Siniakova beat Golubic and Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 to cement their perfect start.
Swiss player Naef fought her way back in as Noskova nearly gave up a 4-1 lead in the first set and then crumbled under the pressure in the second to force a deciding third.
This time, however, it was Naef who collapsed from 4-1 up, with world No. 41 Noskova converting her second match point.
“I came back in the third, which is the most important one,” said an exhausted Noskova following the two-hour, 31-minute match.
The 11-time champions clinched the tie when Bouzkova saw off Golubic, stepping up at key moments — she saved five of seven break points and converted four out of five herself.
“I’m super happy to get the second point and the win for our team,” Bouzkova said.
“(The traveling fans) are so loud, it gives us so much support. I enjoy the team spirit and I’m really happy with this win.”
Switzerland was without Belinda Bencic, the world No. 17 who announced last week she is pregnant and expecting her first child.
Earlier, the Slovenians beat seven-time winners Australia 2-1, taking both the singles rubbers, but they were pipped in the doubles.
Kaja Juvan and Tamara Zidansek succeeded against last year’s runners-up to get Slovenia off to a winning start on their finals debut.
Juvan defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-1 before Zidansek beat Daria Saville 6-1, 6-4.
Kimberly Birrell and Storm Hunter, the latter only arriving a few hours before the match after traveling from the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, beat Veronika Erjavec and Ela Milic in a first-to-ten super tie-break, 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 10-5.