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Czechs beat defending champion U.S. in Fed Cup final

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PRAGUE — Six finals, six victories.

The Czech Republic kept its perfect record in the Fed Cup finals by capturing the trophy for the sixth time in eight years by defeating the defending champion United States.

Katerina Siniakova saved two match points before defeating Sofia Kenin 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 in the first reverse singles on Sunday to give the Czechs an insurmountable 3-0 lead over defending champion United States in the best-of-five final.

It was the first victory for the Czechs over the United States – since the country was created after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 – after four defeats in the Fed Cup.

The Czechoslovakia team that won five Fed Cup titles was 2-6 against the U.S.

“It was an unbelievable match for me,” Siniakova said. “It was up and down, with nerves. I’m extremely happy that I won. I thank all who came for their support. It was felt.”

U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said she was proud of her team despite the loss.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted but nobody can say we didn’t give all out there,” Rinaldi said after her first loss as the captain.

“That match today, both girls, both players were incredible,” she said. “I’m so honored to have been part of that match, they really fought hard, the points were incredible, it’s just something I never forget.”

In a hard-fought match at the O2 Arena, the 22-year-old Czech saved two match points when Kenin was serving at 5-4, and went on to convert her second match point on the indoor hardcourt in front of 14,500 fans.

“It was a long match, a lot of points, a lot of effort, long points,” Kenin said. “We fought hard till the end. It’s disappointing for me `cause I had like two match points but couldn’t turn things around. But I fought my hardest and I did everything I could.”

Siniakova wasted a 3-0 lead in the final set and the 19-year-old Kenin, who was playing her second match in her debut Fed Cup tie, fought back.

Kenin, who wasted three break points at 5-5, hit 43 winners but also made 76 unforced errors. Siniakova hit 24 winners.

“It was horrible, the worst (moment),” Siniakova said about the match points she faced. “But it’s not the end until the final match point is converted.”

At 3-0 down in the third set, Kenin needed treatment for what seemed to be a thigh muscle problem. The treatment was then repeated several times.

“It was obviously painful for me and I felt like it was just hard for me to move,” Kenin said.

Trailing 3-1, the American wasted five break points in a game that took 19 minutes.

On Saturday, Barbora Strycova rallied for a 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kenin to put the Czechs 1-0 ahead and Siniakova doubled the advantage with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Alison Riske.

The U.S. is the most successful country in the international team competition and won its 18th Fed Cup title last year with Rinaldi in her first season as the captain. The U.S. had not previously won the Fed Cup since 2000.

On the way to the final, the Czechs beat Switzerland 3-1 in the first round and Germany 4-1 in the semifinals.

The final was marred by the absence of top players.

Siniakova was the highest ranked at No. 31.

After four of the top five U.S. women in the WTA singles rankings – the Williams sisters, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys – decided to skip it, three players on the team made their Fed Cup debuts.

The Czechs are weakened, too, missing their two top-10 players. Karolina Pliskova was ruled out due to injuries and Petra Kvitova due to illness.

International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty said in Prague the ITF would like to have more top players in the competition in general.

“One of the concepts is to do something similar to what we’ve done with the Davis Cup. Nothing is determined (yet),” he said.

Haggerty said the ITF would like to expand the Fed Cup World Group to 16 teams from the current eight because “some of the top players are on the teams that are maybe nine through 16.”

Serena Williams launches pop-up shop during Art Basel Miami

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Strong. Sophisticated. Sexy. Like the tennis champ herself, Serena Williams’ fashion line is all about power moves and she’s hoping it will also inspire woman to find their own voice.

“I want everyone to be able to do that and to step into their power,” she said Wednesday night at the launch of her first pop-up shop.

Williams launched her shop at the luxe Faena hotel during Miami’s Art Basel where guests, including fellow tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, drank cocktails draped with fluffy pink cotton candy and snapped selfies from a life-size swing covered with botanicals.

Everything in the line, from a black sequined top with the word “Unbothered” to a crisp, white button-down that says “Slay” in red letters, is under $200.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion not only designed all the clothing in the shop, but also painted all the art on the walls, saying many of the paintings took a month to complete because of their intricate textures.

“I’ve painted for years, probably like ten years now. It’s my outlet,” she said. “I jokingly said I’m going to be at Art Basel one day.”

It’s been an awe-inspiring year for Williams, who said she was “pinching myself, like what the heck am I doing here,” at the Wimbledon final in July after a difficult pregnancy and childbirth.

She said her recent accomplishments on the court helped her persevere through the challenges of being a first-time mom.

“If I can be in the final less than a year (after giving birth), I’m OK to handle my little baby who’s starting to have tantrums. I’m OK to handle this tantrum baby. I can do it. I can do it,” she joked, speaking of her 15-month old daughter.

Last month, GQ magazine named her its 2018 Woman of the Year, featuring an image of Williams wearing a black bodysuit and Chanel belt. The headline crossed out “Men” and some fans took offense.

But Williams, who has been criticized for being too muscular, too strong and too outspoken throughout her career, said it was “really cool” and just another example of women breaking down barriers.

“This is a strictly men’s thing but they broke and said, `Let’s also put a woman on (the cover) because this is a strong woman. She’s just as strong as our men.”‘

Art Basel Miami Beach, the prestigious extension of the annual contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, has spawned dozens of other art shows around Miami over the years, along with star-studded parties days in advance.

Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio and rapper Cardi B, fresh from a split with rapper Offset, were all spotted making the rounds Wednesday night.

Mauresmo gives up France Davis Cup captaincy to help Pouille

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PARIS — Amelie Mauresmo won’t be captaining France’s Davis Cup team after all because the two-time major winner is going back to coaching to help Lucas Pouille.

The French Tennis Federation announced Thursday it was searching for a new captain, who will also look after the national team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A statement from the federation said Mauresmo gave up the role to focus on her new job with French player Pouille, ranked 32.

The winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006, who retired from playing in 2009, previously coached Andy Murray.

The former top-ranked Mauresmo was announced in June as the successor to Yannick Noah, who is stepping down after France’s 3-1 loss to Croatia in the final last month, having previously guided the team to three Davis Cup titles.