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Italy on Fire in Fed Cup Final

Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone have given the hosts a 2-0 lead over the US.

Published November 07, 2009 05:28

Italy on Fire in Fed Cup Final
Flavia Pennetta

REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy - Hosts Italy have taken a commanding lead in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final, after Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone secured wins on the opening day's play. The opposing US side now faces an uphill struggle if they are to turn the tie around; never before has a nation recovered from 0-2 to capture the coveted team trophy.

Italian No.1 Flavia Pennetta got the ball rolling with an almost seamless 65 minute defeat of Alexa Glatch, 63 61. Aside from the gulf in rankings - Pennetta is No.11, the lanky American No.132 - the Italian's obvious comfort on clay was in stark contrast to her 20-year-old opponent, who broke in the opening game of the second set but was otherwise outclassed, winning just 43% of points off her own first serve.

"I'm really happy about this first match," said Pennetta, who enjoyed plenty of support from friends and family in the stands. "It's tough to go to the court and play your best tennis when you play such a big event."

World No.16 Schiavone also brought her best to what was always going to be a tighter contest against rising star Melanie Oudin, who is currently ranked 49th and carrying the flag as the American team's No.1.

Oudin, who was a standout in the US team's first round win over Argentina and proved her taste for the big occasion with her quarterfinal run at Flushing Meadows, had built a 4-2 first set lead before rain stopped play for nearly two hours.

But upon the resumption it was 29-year-old Schiavone who was revived and handled the blustery conditions the better, quickly leveling at 4-4 and taking the ensuing tie-break. The second set was less competitive, the Italian at one stage winning 13 points in a row on her way to a 76(2) 62 win.

Oudin, who will be back on court first on Sunday for the reverse singles against Pennetta, was still positive after the match. "I enjoy the pressure," the 18-year-old said. "I know the crowd will be going crazy tomorrow but it kind of makes me even more focused on what I'm doing."

Schiavone is then scheduled to face Glatch, with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci down to play the doubles against Liezel Huber and Vania King.

The International Tennis Federation has confirmed that if Italy is triumphant, the team will top the ITF Fed Cup Nations Ranking for the first time. Russia, the team the Italians beat in the semifinals, would be bumped to No.2.

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