The Czech Republic are one win away from retaining the Fed Cup after Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova won opening singles matches in straight sets in the final against Serbia on Saturday.
Safarova gave the Czechs a flying start on the indoor hard court at the O2 Arena by beating Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3, and Kvitova doubled the advantage with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jelena Jankovic.
The eighth-ranked Kvitova, who led the Czechs to a 3-2 victory over Russia in the final last year, pumped her fist after securing her 11th consecutive victory in Fed Cup singles. She showed no signs of the bronchitis that forced her to withdraw from last week's WTA Championships.
It was the first Fed Cup loss in two years for Jankovic, a former No. 1. Kvitova double-faulted to drop serve in the fifth game before breaking twice to take the first set. Applying her big forehand and serve, she then raced to a 5-0 lead in the second. She converted her second match point when Jankovic's backhand sailed too long.
"After I lost both matches in the final last year, I desperately wanted to win"
Czech Lucie Safarova
"After I lost both matches in the final last year, I desperately wanted to win,'' said Safarova, who improved to 4-2 against Ivanovic.
"We were both nervous at the start but I got rid of it. I was improving throughout the match. It was very important to win."
The title will be decided on Sunday with two reverse singles and the doubles.
Kvitova plays Ivanovic before Safarova takes on Jankovic. In doubles, the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who reached the U.S. Open and Wimbledon finals this season, will play Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra
The 12th-ranked Ivanovic, a former No. 1, looked frustrated and was unable to find her rhythm throughout the match, hitting eight double-faults and making 32 unforced errors.
"I'm very very disappointed that I didn't manage to get the first point for our team,'' Ivanovic said.
"I had plenty of opportunities but I just wasn't executing when it was important. It was very frustrating."
Serbia have been enjoying their best Fed Cup season as an independent country, winning away at Belgium and Russia to reach their first final.
The Czechs beat Russia 3-2 in last year's final in Moscow for their first title since Czechoslovakia's split in 1993. The Czechs won five more times as Czechoslovakia between 1975 and 1988.