Russia narrows Slovakia’s lead

Maria Kirilenko beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-1 in the first reverse singles Sunday as Russia narrowed Slovakia’s lead in the Fed Cup World Group semifinals to 2-1.

Slovakia stunned highly favored Russia on Saturday when Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Kirilenko, respectively, to take a 2-0 lead.

Ekaterina Makaroiva substituted for Pavlyuchenkova to play Hantuchova in the second reverse singles.

After trading serves twice in the opening set, Kirilenko broke for the set in the 12th game. Cibulkova opened the second set with a break, but the Russian broke back immediately and won the rest of the games, serving the match out at love.

Kirilenko said that she moved and played much better than she did on Saturday and a phone call from her husband-to be, Washington Capitals’ forward Alex Ovechkin, helped her a lot.

”Those were the words of a real champion and I told myself – I’m no worse,” Kirilenko said.

Cibulkova said that she hasn’t recovered from Saturday’s three-set match against Pavlyuchenkova.

”In the second set I felt like my energy was gone,” Cibulkova said. ”And Maria took advantage of it 100 per cent. The match was not going my way today and it was really tough on the court.”

Four-time champion Russia has reached the semifinal stage for the seventh consecutive year. Slovakia is in its first since winning the title in 2002.

The winner will face two-time defending champion Czech Republic or Italy in the final on Nov. 2-3.