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Czechs & Italians Set Up Semifinal Clash

The Czech Republic and Italy, who have combined to win the last four years of Fed Cup, set up a semifinal clash in the 2013 edition of the international competition. Italy's win came down to the wire.

Published February 10, 2013 12:00

Czechs & Italians Set Up Semifinal Clash
Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani

The Czech Republic, who won back-to-back Fed Cups in 2011 and 2012, made the semis again with a commanding 4-0 win over Australia - though the win that clinched it was anything but commanding.

Having built a 2-0 lead after Saturday's play, all the Czechs needed was one more point - and Petra Kvitova certainly went to the ends of the Earth to get it in Sunday's first match. In a match between Grand Slam champions, Sam Stosur gave Kvitova all she could handle, blowing through the first set in just 33 minutes, 6-2, and eventually finding herself at match point up 5-4 in the second set.

That's when Kvitova served up something fierce - a 90mph second serve into Stosur's body.

"She got it deep in the box and swung it into my body, and it was pretty fast for a second serve, too," Stosur said afterwards. "If you miss a second serve return on any other point you just say too good, but it hurt a little bit more since it was match point. But I couldn't really do much with that."

"I was really nervous," Kvitova said. "My serve wasn't great in the first two sets and it was a second serve on match point, so I'm glad I could serve well on that point and in the third set too."

That was a massive turning point, as Kvitova not only squeaked out the second set but surged to a 5-0 lead in the third - but there was one last turn of events before she finally crossed the finish line.

"Petra kind of got a spring in her step after the end of the second set and start hitting lots of winners," Stosur commented. "I found myself behind the 8-ball, down 5-0 in the third set, but I just tried to stay in there, hang in there and keep playing how I wanted to play, and I came close in the end."

Stosur closed the 5-0 third set gap to 5-4 and had two points to make it 5-5, but Kvitova snuck out the last three points of that final game for a dramatic two-hour, five-minute, 26 76(3) 64 triumph.

"I was very happy with how I was playing - it was one that just slipped away," Stosur said. "I don't think I did much wrong today. Once the second set started Petra played a very good match. We were both playing very high quality, and when it's like that, it usually comes down to a point here and there."

"It was my first really good match this year," Kvitova said. "When I lost the first set I didn't want to give up because I knew the next two matches would be very tough for us. I really fought a lot. I think the key was the tie-break in the second set. And it's always a pleasure to play in front of this crowd."

The second singles was skipped and the Czechs finished with a 4-0 victory after Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Australian Open finalists Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, 60 76(1).

Italy followed the Czechs into the semifinals with a 3-2 win over the United States. The teams had been tied 1-1 after Saturday and they split Sunday's singles matches too - Varvara Lepchenko beat Sara Errani, 75 62, then Roberta Vinci beat Jamie Hampton, 62 46 61 - and Errani and Vinci, the No.1 team in the world, won the deciding doubles rubber against Lepchenko and Liezel Huber, 62 62.

Though the United States couldn't win the tie, it was a very special day for Lepchenko - the American had been 0-11 against Top 10 players beforehand but it was 12th time lucky as she finally broke through against the No.7-ranked Errani, winning nine of 11 games from 5-4 down in the first set to prevail.

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