BIELLA, ITALY: Lesia Tsurenko stunned Francesca Schiavone as she stormed to a surprise 61 62 victory over the Italian No. 1 to draw Ukraine level with Italy at the end of the opening day of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie.
In front of a partisan home crowd and on Schiavone’s favourite clay surface, Tsurenko broke five times to comfortably beat the former French Open champion, who sits over 100 places above the world No. 121 in the rankings.
“It was a mix of things. She played well and I didn’t manage to play my game,” a visibly disappointed Schiavone said. “She didn’t let me get into the game and I played very badly. It’s difficult to explain something that didn’t go well, hard to find the words. I’m angry and upset with myself and disappointed also for the team. When you play for Italy, you’re not just playing for yourself.”
Sara Errani had given the three-time Fed Cup winners the lead as she eased to a 62 63 win over Ukrainian No. 1 Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening rubber.
Schiavone struggled from start to finish against an impressive performance from the 22-year-old Tsurenko.
“I knew I could play this kind of tennis,” Tsurenko said. “I’ve been improving the last few years. I’ve been waiting for a result like this and now I’m expecting to play more matches like this.”
Ukraine captain Igor Dernovskyi believes his team can even push off from their shock result and win the tie.
“Italy is the strongest team in the world, but I think now we have a good chance to get past them,” he said.
Tsurenko, who only made her Fed Cup debut last year, stormed into a 5-0 lead in the opening set, breaking Schiavone to love in the fourth game. However, as impressive as Tsurenko was, Schiavone was also remarkably poor, making 42 unforced errors, and didn’t even make a mark on the scoreboard until midway through the second game - with her opponent winning the first six points.
Schiavone skied her first return high into the lights and sent two more into the net, as well as double faulting on her first serve.
There were some signs of the form that has made Schiavone a Top 10 player, she won her first game to love in the sixth, including a delicious lob that landed just inside the far right corner. Schiavone also won the first game of the second set to love, with a stunning forehand right down the line to loud cheering from the home fans. They hoped this might be a sign the Italian No. 1 was going to pull off a comeback. But it was not to be and Tsurenko needed just one of two match points to take the match in one hour 11 minutes.
Italy, who have defeated Ukraine on each of their three previous meetings and top the Fed Cup rankings, are still favourites to win the tie and they were given a great start by Errani.
The 24-year-old is in the form of her life after an impressive Australian Open, where she lost out to world No. 2 Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals and reached the doubles final with Roberta Vinci. However, the pressure was on, as Errani was chosen over usual singles choice Flavia Pennetta, who is carrying a slight back injury. Errani immediately proved up to the challenge as the world No. 34 broke Bondarenko in the opening game and broke again in the seventh to take the first set in just 33 minutes. Errani broke again in the opening game of the second before completing the victory in one hour 14 minutes.
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 04/02/12
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) - 04/02/12
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) - 04/02/12