Sunday, September 23, 2018 11:24:44 AM
Lucie Safarova saved five match points before beating Caroline Garcia 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1 as defending champion Czech Republic took a 1-0 lead over France in the Fed Cup's World Group semifinals on Saturday.The 13th-ranked Safarova converted her first match point with the 29th-ranked Garcia unable to return her serve on a fast indoor hardcourt at CEZ Arena."A wild match, isn't it?" Safarova said. "I'm really happy I managed to come back."Fourth-ranked Czech Petra Kvitova will play 58th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic later Saturday.After winning the opening set, Garcia wasted five match points in the 10th game, allowing Safarova to stage a comeback after the Czech dominated the tiebreaker 7-1."Of course, I was nervous," Safarova said about the match points. "But I served well and got her under pressure. In tennis, you can always come back until the final point is over. I did all I could. My experience played a role."In the final set, Safarova, who was under pressure from big hitting Garcia in the first two sets, jumped to a decisive 5-0 lead with her first two breaks.The 21-year-old Garcia hit 34 winners to Safarova's 23 and broke the Czech in the 10th game with a forehand winner to take the first set."She played aggressively and served well," Safarova said.