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06 February 2011

Russia reaches last four


MATCH REPORT

By 

  • Richard van Poortvliet

Photo: Kivrin/GolovanovSvetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russia produced an amazing second day fight back to book a place in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals, after coming from 2-0 down to beat France 3-2 in Moscow.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were the heroes for the home side, as they both won their singles matches and then teamed up for the doubles to complete an improbable comeback and become only the fourth side in the history of Fed Cup to come from 2-0 down and win.

“I am really happy that I managed to help Russia get this victory, and I would like to say a big thank you to Svetlana, as she really helped me in this doubles match and I think we had a really good match, and I am just so happy,” said Pavlyuchenkova.

The last three ties involving these two countries had all been decided in the final rubber. However, it was quite a surprise that Russia, who had been out of sorts on Saturday, managed to take the clash into a winner-takes-all fifth match-up.

Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova were given the responsibility for the Russians by team captain Shamil Tarpishchev and they were up against the French pair of Alize Conet and Julie Coin, who also teamed up in last year’s competition to knock Germany out of the World Group.

The first set was a tight affair, with neither side managing to maintain any consistency on serve. Not surprisingly the set went to a tie-break, and it was the Russians who came out on top, moving them to within just a set of claiming victory.

The partisan home crowd was willing their team on, with both pairs of players visibly struggling. However, it was the Russian duo who was by far the stronger, and in no time at all they had moved into a 5-0 lead.

Such was the turn in fortunes, the French pair of Cornet and Coin were only able to win one point in those first five games. The Russians had no trouble in breaking Coin once again, and Pavlyuchenkova claimed the vital point with a cross court smash, to seal a stunning comeback.

It proved to be a fantastic day for Pavlyuchenkova, was understandably ecstatic to help her team overcome all odds and make the semifinals, as she recorded her maiden singles and doubles victories in this competition.

“We had never played doubles together before, so it was the first time we had played together on court. This might explain why we had a few problems at the beginning, but things became easier as the match went on and I think that was reflected by the scoreline in the second set,” the 19 year-old commented.

Meanwhile, Kuznetsova had had only 40 minutes to prepare for that doubles encounter, after beating Virginie Razzano 64 64. It was far from easy for the Russian, but she eventually prevailed in just over 1 hour 45 minutes.

Of course, Russia had started the day just one loss away from their first opening round defeat since 2006. Pavlyuchenkova was handed the task of trying to keep the hosts in the tie, despite the world No. 16 having only ever played one singles match previously in the competition. She duly repaid her captain’s faith by storming back in the second and third sets to beat Alize Cornet 36 63 62.

It proved to be a stunning final day comeback for the Russian’s and understandably France’s Fed Cup captain, Nicholas Escude, couldn’t find many positives.

“We didn’t learn any new lessons from this tie with Russia,” he said. “The only thing we found out was that we always have to keep fighting to the end, and victory is only assured once we have secured that vital third victory. Russia were brilliant today, and I think it really fired them up, after going 2-0 down, and I always knew that Sunday was going to be very difficult.”

Attention will now turn to Russia’s semifinal clash with Italy, which will take place at home in April, when Svetlana Kuznetsova is once again set to do battle with Francesca Schiavone. Shamil Tarpishchev is expecting a tough encounter.

“It promises to be a great match, and I am sure everyone remembers Kuznetsova’s match with Schiavone, both in the 2007 Fed Cup final, where Svetlana won, and of course at this year’s Australian Open where she lost a marathon third set,” said the Russian captain. “However, our team will be strengthened ahead of that tie, as Vera Zvonareva will play for us, so I am counting on us winning that tie.”

It’s been a memorable weekend for the large crowds that attended, while they were able to witness one of the great comebacks as Russia continue their quest to win a fifth Fed Cup title.

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