HOBART, AUSTRALIA: Although the sold-out crowd at the Domain Tennis Centre in Hobart tried their best to inspire their side, two-time defending champion Italy was just too good for the Aussies today.
World No. 4 Francesca Schiavone defeated No. 5 Samantha Stosur 76(1) 36 75 in a rematch of the 2010 Roland Garros Final then Flavia Pennetta, who won the decisive point over USA in last year's final, secured victory for Italy by defeating Fed Cup debutante Jarmila Groth 63 62 to give Italy an unassailable 3-1 lead and set up a semifinal encounter against either France or Russia in the 2011 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. France leads Russia 2-0 in Moscow in a tie to be completed later today.
In the doubles, Italy's Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci came back from one set down to defeat the Australians Anastasia Rodionova and Rennae Stubbs 26 76(1) 64. It was a historic doubles match for both team as Vinci won her 16th consecutive doubles without a loss, tying a Fed Cup record, while the veteran Stubbs completed her professional tennis career. It was the Australian's 17th year in the competition and she was honoured in an emotional ceremony on the court.
Italy has beaten Australia for the very first time in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. This was their sixth meeting, and while Italy had yet to win a rubber coming into the tie, they now have won three and the tie. Coming into the final day the teams were locked at 1-1 but Schiavone and Pennetta clinched the two reverse singles.
Schiavone set up the victory by beating Stosur in two hours 44 minutes and then Pennetta took just 66 minutes to defeat Groth.
Stosur had her fair share of chances in the match which would have put Australia in a very good position. In the first set, she had three break points in the ninth game which, if converted, would have seen her serving for the set. The Australian then played a terrible tiebreak which ended when she sent a forehand into the net.
Pennetta opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set but then dropped serve and allowed Groth, who played her first Fed Cup for Australia on Saturday, a slight opening. The Australian closed to within one game but Pennetta then broke serve again to go up 5-3 and serving out the set.
The Italian jumped to a quick lead in the second set and her greater experience in the competition paid huge dividends. Groth certainly tried to make inroads but to no avail as Pennetta stuck the ball so crisply.
“Yesterday we could have been 2-0 or 0-2, so we are happy to have won 3-1,” Pennetta said. “It was tough for everyone because both teams are so good. You have to be ready for everything. Everyone played really good tennis and there wasn’t much difference but you have to believe you can win.”
The win is Pennetta’s 20th singles win in fourteen Fed Cup by BNP Paribas ties and also her 10th consecutive singles win in the competition. The last time she lost a singles was in April, 2009 to Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 60 63 in the World Group semifinals.
As for Groth, it’s been a big weekend experiencing the highs and lows this competition brings.
“Obviously I am disappointed I lost (to Pennetta) but all the matches this weekend were good,” Groth said. “I think against Flavia I tried to play too much of her style. I didn’t serve very well and she didn’t give me too many mistakes. She won the crucial points.”
Earlier Schiavone was overwhelming in the first set tiebreak against Stosur. However, Stosur broke Schiavone in the fourth game of the second and maintained that advantage to level the match even after a rain interruption distracted the two women for about 15 minutes.
The final set was the cruncher for Australia. Stosur had five break points in the third game and failed to capitalise. Schiavone said that was a crucial moment in the match.
“She played terrible those points,” Schiavone said. “I think then that I have the chance and the end of the match is not far away and I was able to push things some more.
“I think the difference in the match was that I had more chances. I never played same shot too many times. I mix it up so much and I always offer something with my tennis.”
Schiavone added that she has been playing more aggressively against Stosur of late. This is her second win from the last three matches against the Australian.
Stosur meanwhile was disappointed with some of her play and said she “didn’t make it happen”.
“It might have been different if I had an early break because I was holding my serve confidently,” Stosur said. “I was getting the opportunities and not being able to take them. I couldn’t quite get the edge.”