MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Svetlana Kuznetsova sealed Russia’s passage into the World Group semifinals of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas after her 62 46 63 victory against Silvia Soler-Espinosa. The world No. 19, who has been in excellent form this weekend, produced another fine display of tennis to beat her Spanish opponent.
The fact the tie went all the way to a fourth rubber was a surprise in itself. With Russia just one rubber away from victory, Maria Sharapova was expected to book her country’s place into the next round. However, the three-time Grand Slam champion didn’t take to the court against Carla Suarez Navarro, as she was suffering from a cold, leaving Nadia Petrova to try and beat the Spanish No. 1.
The Russian only knew two hours before the match started that she would be playing and underprepared, it wasn’t surprising that she took time to adjust early on. However, no one could have predicted what unfolded as Suarez Navarro romped to take the first set 6-0 in just 22 minutes.
“It was obviously frustrating to know that I had to play just two hours before the match. Physiologically it was very difficult for me to prepare because I was in such a rush to get to the warm up and getting myself ready to play so when I got onto the court, I could not get my thoughts together," Petrova commented.
The world No. 33 put up more of a fight in the second set, but she could do little to stop her Spanish opponent sealing a very one-sided victory in just over an hour and even Suarez Navarro was pleasantly surprised that she would not have to play Russia’s in-form player.
“I was practicing this morning to play Maria Sharapova but when I finished they told me I would be playing against Petrova and this was good for me because Sharapova was playing very well yesterday. I was happy and the match went my way which was good," she said.
Kuznetsova was left with the task of trying to wrap up the tie for the home side against Soler-Espinosa, and the Russian started excellently as she breezed to take the first set 6-2. The St. Petersburg native was cruising at 4-1 up in the second, but then her game fell apart. The Spanish No. 2, who was playing only her second Fed Cup match, stormed back to win the next five games, breaking her opponent twice, to send the rubber into a decisive third set.
“I always fight and I fight for every point and I want to do my best. I think Svetlana became a little nervous because she wanted to win and I managed to take advantage of this," the Spaniard commented.
The decider was evenly poised going into the eight game, however Kuznetsova earned a crucial break point after her opponent hit her forehand long after a marathon rally, leaving the Russian to serve out for the match. The 26 year-old duly obliged, sealing victory with a stunning cross court forehand winner, which puts Russia into the Fed Cup semi-finals and Kuzentsova was delighted to have finally got the job done for her country.
“I was totally dead in the first set, but I knew I had to push myself some more because then I would have to put yet more effort into the doubles, so I am very happy I managed to pull through in the singles”.
Remarkably Russia are still looking for their first Fed Cup triumph since 2008 and standing between them and another chance to appear in another final, is a last four meeting with either Belgium or Serbia.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 05/02/2012
Captain Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (ESP) - 05/02/2012
Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) - 05/02/2012
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) - 05/02/2012
Nadia Petrova (RUS) - 05/02/2012