Yanina Keeps Belgium In The Chase

Russia leads Italy 2-0 after the first day of their Fed Cup semi, while the Belgians and Czechs are split.

Published April 16, 2011 06:33

Yanina Keeps Belgium In The Chase
Yanina Wickmayer

Russia is one match away from a place in this year's Fed Cup final, after Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova built a commanding 2-0 lead over defending champions Italy on Saturday. Meantime, the Czech Republic and Belgium are locked at 1-1 following wins by young guns Petra Kvitova and Yanina Wickmayer

World No.3 Zvonareva got the ball rolling for the hosts in Moscow by brushing aside Sara Errani, making a rare singles appearance in the competition, 60 62. Kuznetsova had to work much harder against a resolute Roberta Vinci, who had a point for 5-1 in the second set but ultimately fell to her more celebrated opponent, 62 67(4) 61.

"The first set was pretty comfortable as I think I played the right way but in the second set she started to come in because I think she knew that she could not win from the baseline and then it got a little bit tougher," said Kuznetsova. "In the third set I tried to keep her under pressure and that went well. Overall I think it was a good match."

Vinci, on the other hand, could only rue her chances. "She is a great player," said the Italian, who must step up against Zvonareva in the first of Sunday's reverse singles. "She has won Grand Slams and though I fought I lost the match. She was serving great, not spinning, but very flat, and I couldn't break her. After that it was very tough."

In Charleroi, Kvitova got the visiting Czechs off to the expected strong start, although the world No. 18 met stern resistance from Kirsten Flipkens before prevailing, 62 76(4). Standing in for injured Kim Clijsters as the country's top player, Wickmayer then toiled for 1 hour 37 minutes to stop Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 64 64.

World Group play-offs are also being contested this weekend.

In Melbourne, Australia and Ukraine are split at the end of day one, after Jarmila Groth beat Olga Savchuk but Anastasia Rodionova was surprised by Lesia Tsurenko. Slovakia and Serbia are also evenly poised in Bratislava, where Dominika Cibulkova beat Bojana Jovanovski and Ana Ivanovic toppled Daniela Hantuchova.

Spain and France are at evens too in Lleida, where María José Martínez Sánchez played flawless serve-and-volley tennis - on clay - to beat Virginie RazzanoAravane Rezai leveled with a rousing three-set defeat of Anabel Medina Garrigues, 75 67(4) 62.

The Germans broke the trend in Stuttgart, where they are 2-0 against the young US side. In line with the rankings, Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges were too strong for Christina McHale and Melanie Oudin, respectively.

In World Group II play-offs being staged, Belarus leads Estonia 2-0 in Minsk; Victoria Azarenka is in action, but Kaia Kanepi is missing. Timea Bacsinszky and Patty Schnyder have put the Swiss 2-0 up against Sweden's Johanna Larsson and Sofia Arvidsson. Slovenia and Canada are 1-1 in Koper, with Polona Hercog and Rebecca Marino scoring points.

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