| Slovak captain Tomas Malik with Daniela Hantuchova (left) and Janette Husarova after they won the Fed Cup in Maspalomas, Spain, on Saturday. (AP/PTI)
Maspalomas (Gran Canaria): Daniela Hantuchova put in a scintillating display of power and precision to guide Slovakia to their first Fed Cup title with victory over favourites Spain on Sunday.
The 19-year-old produced a mature performance under intense pressure to beat Conchita Martinez 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 before Janette Husarova sealed the 3-1 victory by defeating an injured Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2.
Playing under their own flag only since 1994, Slovakia exceeded expectations by beating the five-time winners on their own turf.
“It just meant so much to me,” Hantuchova said. “I gave everything I had out there and I wanted to win so much. I was just doing everything I could to win.
In a pulsating match, Martinez cleverly mixed up her game and it looked to be working when she took the first set 10-8 in the tiebreak.
But despite being unsettled by a time-delay warning at the end of the first set, Hantuchova maintained her composure in the second to level the match on her fourth set point.
The Slovakian then surged to a 3-0 lead in the deciding set, and served for the match at 5-3, only to be broken by a resurgent Martinez.
But the respite was only brief as another Hantuchova forehand brought the match to a fitting end after three hours and 21 minutes.
Martinez also cast doubt on whether she would be back to play for Spain in next year’s competition.
“I have no idea. All I know now is that I don’t have to play tomorrow, and I am on holiday,” she said.
Sanchez-Vicario became the first woman to play 100 Fed Cup matches when she bravely stepped on court for her match with Husarova despite suffering from a thigh injury.
But the decision backfired as she struggled with her mobility throughout the clash.
The doubles, which had been due to complete the best-of-five tie, was cancelled with the agreement of both teams.
Slovakia will begin the defence of their title away to Germany in April 2003, while Spain entertain Australia.