Russia Squeaks By in Fed Cup
Published Feburary 07, 2010 12:00
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas kicked off this weekend with first round ties from the World Group, and last year's champions Italy cruised through with a 4-1 victory over the Ukraine. Last year's runners-up, USA, also advanced.
Playing on Ukrainian hardcourts in Kharkiv, Flavia Pennetta led Italy to the dominant win, taking out both Bondarenko sisters - first Kateryna, then Alona - in straight sets. Italy's No.2, Francesca Schiavone, lost to Alona on Saturday but sealed the victory with a three set win over Kateryna on Sunday. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci made it 4-1 with a doubles win.
"I was really nervous in the beginning. I knew I needed to play my best tennis," Pennetta said. "I fought from the beginning until the end."
"My forehand was key today against Kateryna," Schiavone said about her 26 61 61 win over the younger Bondarenko. "I had a tough time in the first set but I changed my game, mixing it up and hitting a lot of spin. I've played a lot of Fed Cup matches and I'm very happy with these ones from this weekend."
Next up for Italy will be the Czech Republic, who edged Germany, 3-2. Italy and the Czechs are 3-3 - Italy has won their last three meetings, though.
Led by America's biggest rising star, Melanie Oudin, the USA cruised to a 4-1 victory over France. After Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Alizé Cornet in the first rubber, Oudin made it 3-0 with wins over Pauline Parmentier and Julie Coin. Parmentier beat Christina McHale to put France on the board but Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber finished things off with a doubles victory.
"I'm really excited. It meant a lot to me to clinch the tie," Oudin said. "I was a little nervous in the beginning today against Coin but I just kept fighting and never gave up. I played the big points really well today. I've lost 7-5 in the third set in my last two matches before Fed Cup, so it's good for me mentally."
"The weekend went really well. I'm so proud of my team," said USA's captain, Mary Joe Fernandez. "It's all about the team chemistry and wanting to do well not just for yourself but for your teammates and your country. They get out there and work hard to be their best on a given day. The rankings aren't always the most important factor when you play for your country."
Former No.1s Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic were close but couldn't pull off an upset over Russia, as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Alisa Kleybanova edged the Serbian duo with a win over them in the doubles rubber to clinch the tie, 3-2. After the two nations split the four singles rubbers it all came down to the doubles, but in their first World Group appearance, Serbia had to taste defeat, as the Russians beat them in straight sets there, 61 64.
The USA leads Russia in their head-to-head, 4-3, but the Americans' last win came in 1999 - Russia has won all three of their meetings since then.
In World Group II ties, Australia beat Spain, Belgium beat Poland, Estonia beat Argentina and Slovakia beat China.