Czech Republic takes 2-0 Fed Cup lead

Defending champion Czech Republic took a commanding 2-0 lead over Italy after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova won the opening singles matches of their Fed Cup semifinal series on Saturday.

Safarova defeated Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (3), 6-1 to give the Czechs a 1-0 lead before Kvitova used her attacking play to double the advantage by beating Sara Errani 6-4, 6-3 to move the Czechs within one win from the final.

The third-ranked Kvitova converted her first match point with a drop shot to win in one hour and 21 minutes despite producing 30 unforced errors.

”2-0 is a great result but we need one more point and the tie remains still open,” Kvitova said.

The 28th-ranked Errani served well in the first set before Kvitova put her under pressure in the 10th game and broke her on her first set point with a big forehand return.

”I was a bit nervous at the beginning because I haven’t played for a long time,” said Kvitova, who has played only three matches on the WTA Tour since she helped the Czechs beat Germany 4-1 in February.

Kvitova double-faulted to drop her serve in the opening game of the second set, but came back in the sixth game and broke Errani again for a 5-3 lead.

Earlier, the 23rd-ranked Safarova converted her first match point when Schiavone netted a backhand to improve her record over her 12th-ranked opponent to 5-3.

”It’s just amazing,” said Safarova, who has won all her matches on hard courts against Schiavone while the Italian has dominated on clay.

In the eastern city of Ostrava, the Czechs are counting on a fast indoor hard court at the CEZ Arena.

In the first set, Safarova double faulted to drop her serve at 5-4 up. But at 6-5 down, she saved three set points.

”That was a turning point,” she said.

Safarova then cruised to victory in the second, breaking Schiavone twice.

In Sunday’s reverse singles, Kvitova first plays Schiavone before Safarova takes on Errani.

In the doubles, French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka will play against the Italian pair of Errani and Roberta Vinci.

The winner of the best-of-five series faces Serbia or Russia in November’s final.