Maria Sharapova fulfilled her ITF Olympics commitment, and played Fed Cup for Russia, in the final against the lately-long-dominant Czech Republic this past weekend.
The Russian turned pro in 2001, and her country since then has played 42 Fed Cup ties. Sharapova has represented Russia in five of those 42 ties.
This weekend she won both her singles matches, defeating Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-4, and Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, yet sat on the Russian bench and watched her compatriots Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina fall to Pliskova and Barbora Strycova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the doubles decider.
Ouch. Russian “doubles specialists” were better than running the former No. 1 Sharapova and ANYONE in the final?
Regardless, Sharapova watched it unfold from the bench with the requisite sadness and hugs.
“It’s never over for me until I play the last point,” said Sharapova after her singles — something Russian captain Anastasia Myskina could have employed in the doubles final.
“I’ve never been in a Fed Cup final and I won two of my matches and it’s one of those things where you look back and you’ve missed a lot of time on the court and these matches are just one big bonus for me at this point.”
Instead of bringing out the superstar power in the doubles final, it was the Czechs bringing the younger next-level stars to clinch.
“This crowd was like a fifth person in our team.” Pliskova said. “We really enjoyed it and I would like to thank to them. They pushed us forward.”
The Czechs won their fourth Fed Cup final in the last five years — the first team to do that since — ummm, Russia in 2004-08.
Oh the irony.
“The girls have done it and I’m so happy and proud of them,” Czech captain Petr Pala said. “Petra came a bit short but the way she played I think she could only lose to Maria today, and the way that Karolina handled it in singles and doubles was just phenomenal I would say.”
Russian iron-handled Iron Curtain coach Shamil Tarpishchev kept that Russian team together in the late ’80s, but today it is the Czech team camaraderie keeping things together.
Russia, the United States, Italy and the other contenders have been put on point — the Czech Republic is in it for a possibly record-setting long haul.
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