Russia leads Italy 2-0 in Fed Cup semi
Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova won their singles matches on Saturday to give Russia a comfortable 2-0 lead over Italy after the first day of the Fed Cup World Group semifinal.
Zvonareva defeated Sara Errani in the opening singles 6-0, 6-2 and Kuznetsova then survived a second-set scare to beat Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1.
The third-ranked Zvonareva was in full control of the match, with 33 winners to Errani's 9.
''In fact, it was a very tough match,'' said Zvonareva. ''I had to fight for every point, but I've played a very clean match. From the first point to the last, the level of my game was very high. And I really didn't give her (Errani) any chance to get into the game and find her rhythm.''
Zvonareva's only slip in the match was in the fourth game of the first set when 40-30 up on her serve, she lost concentration and returned wide twice to give Errani her only chance for a break in the match. But the 43rd-ranked Italian failed to convert.
''I'm really happy that I gave the first point to my team,'' Zvonareva said.
Zvonareva is back on the team for the first time since the title-winning final against Spain in 2008. She has a 7-2 win-loss record.
Errani landed 82 per cent of her first serves but could not cope with Zvonareva's powerful and long returns.
''It was a very difficult match for me,'' Errani said. ''She (Zvonareva) played very strong all the points and very long also, so it was not easy for me to change the game.''
Two-time Grand Slam winner Kuznetsova won the first set, but Vinci broke her in the fourth game of the second and was serving for the set at 5-4 when the Russian broke back and forced a tiebreaker.
The 37th-ranked Italian capitalized on Kuznetsova's poor return to stay in the match.
Kuznetsova, ranked 13th, dominated in the decisive set and jumped to a 5-0 lead. She saved a break point with an ace at 5-1 up and closed the match on her first match point.
''My level was a bit down in the second set,'' Kuznetsova said. ''But I'm Svetlana Kuznetsova, not Pete Sampras who can serve out two sets to love. Sometimes I play well, sometimes not — like it was in the tiebreaker in the second set.''
Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev said he had no doubts about the result of Kuznetsova's match because ''Vinci could not match Kuznetsova's tempo.''
Vinci said she did her best and tried to win ''but she (Kuznetsova) played better.''
''Definitely I'm disappointed with the results,'' Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti said. ''But the girls tried their best to win and it's important for me. Honestly, we have say that the other side has much better players. We will try hard tomorrow.''
Zvonareva can clinch the tie for Russia when she plays Vinci in Sunday's first reverse singles. Kuznetsova was scheduled to follow against Errani. A doubles match will wrap up the tie.
Two-time defending champion Italy is without its two top players.
Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion, is not playing to concentrate on the clay-court season. Flavia Pennetta is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Russia is unbeaten at home in nine ties since losing to France in the 2003 semifinals. The streak includes a win over Italy in the 2007 final.
Russia holds a 4-1 advantage against Italy. Both teams have dominated the Fed Cup since 2004, winning all seven titles between them.
The winner of the match will play either Belgium or the Czech Republic in the final on Nov. 5-6.