Monday, February 7, 2011
Russia storm into Fed Cup semis from 2-0 down.
Russia notched its first ever Fed Cup comeback from 0-2 on Sunday, when Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova rallied to defeat France 3-2 in their World Group clash in Moscow. In April's semifinals they will meet the other country that has dominated the competition in recent years, Italy, after Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta put paid to Australia's challenge in Hobart.
Stepping up in place of Maria Sharapova, who had been shocked by Virginie Razzano on Saturday, Pavlyuchenkova launched the Russian resurgence with a hard fought 3-6 6-3 6-2 win over Alizé Cornet. Then Kuznetsova bounced back from her defeat to Cornet to level proceedings with a 6-4 6-4 win over Razzano. In the decisive doubles rubber Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova beat Cornet and Julie Coin, 7-6(4) 6-0.
"I am really happy that I managed to help Russia get this victory," said Pavlyuchenkova. "I would like to say a big thank you to Svetlana, as she really helped me in this doubles match.
"We had never played doubles together before, which might explain why we had a few problems at the beginning," the 19-year-old added. "But things became easier as the match went on, and I think that was reflected by the scoreline in the second set."
The Italians had an easier time of it against the Aussies, after their tie was evenly posied at 1-1. In a much-anticipated repeat of last year's French Open final, Francesca Schiavone edged Sam Stosur 7-6(1) 3-6 7-5 to put her country ahead. Flavia Pennetta duly settled it for the visitors with a 6-2 6-3 win over Jarmila Groth - a tenth consecutive Fed Cup singles win for the Italian.
The doubles rubber, though dead, was closely fought too: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci saved two match points to beat Anastasia Rodionova and Rennae Stubbs, 2-6 7-6(1) 6-4. The defeat brought an end to a glorious Fed Cup career for 39-year-old Stubbs, who first played for her country in 1992.
"It's been a very emotional weekend... I was trying not to think about it," said Stubbs, who had earlier indicated this would likely be her final appearance for Australia. "Fed Cup has been one of the most joyous parts of my career - every time I've put on the green and gold I've loved it and it's something I'm really going to miss."
In the semis the Belgians face the Czech Republic, after the Czechs beat Slovakia in Bratislava. Petra Kvitova's good form proved too much for Daniela Hantuchova to handle, the Czech giving her side an unassailable 3-0 lead with a 6-4 6-2 win.
The Slovaks salvaged some pride in the dead rubbers, though. Playing instead of Dominika Cibulkova, 17-year-old Fed Cup debutante Jana Cepelova got Lucie Safarova to one set all before the Czech lefty retired with a hamstring complaint. Then Cepelova, ranked No.437, combined with Magdalena Rybarikova to upset the much-fancied Kveta Peschke and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in a third set tie-break.
In April's play-offs, the four losing World Group sides will face the four victorious teams from this weekend's World Group II encounters: Germany, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine.