World doubles number one Katerina Siniakova and veteran Barbora Strycova powered the Czech Republic to the verge of another Fed Cup title in the final against defending champions the United States on Saturday.
Their opening day victories ensured the Czech team will take a 2-0 lead into Sunday as they seek a sixth Fed Cup triumph since 2011 against the only the country to have won more titles.
The two most successful teams in the tournament’s history were facing off without their top players.
Americans Serena and Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens were all unavailable while, for the Czechs, world number eight Karolina Pliskova pulled out with injury and Petra Kvitova was sidelined on the first day with illness.
That left the responsibility to Siniakova, who defeated Alison Riske 6-3 7-6(2), and veteran Barbora Strycova, who beat Fed Cup debutant Sofia Kenin 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 in the opening rubber.
“I was trying... when I had a chance to be aggressive,” said Siniakova, who won the French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles this season with her Czech teammate Barbora Krejcikova.
It was the ideal start for the Czechs, winners of five of the last seven Fed Cup titles and unbeaten in 10 home ties since 2009.
They remain heavy favorites, even without their leading duo, against a US team featuring three debutants, including Kenin.
Czechs take 2-0 lead over United States in Fed Cup final