MOSCOW, RUSSIA: A delighted Vera Zvonareva sealed Russia’s place in this year’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final with a hard-fought 64 62 victory over Italy’s Roberta Vinci in Sunday’s opening reverse singles match.
It took the current world No. 3 one hour 14 minutes to end Vinci’s determined challenge and give Russia an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie. Russia now has a guaranteed home final against Czech Republic in November.
“I think this is one of the biggest emotions of my life. I haven’t played for my country for two years and I really wanted to give this match to my team,” said Zvonareva.
The Muscovite had to battle hard to beat Vinci, especially in a competitive first set which saw the Russian go up an early break only to find herself back at 4-4 after Vinci refused to bow down.
The Italian, who is best known for her unbeaten record in doubles in Fed Cup play, was promoted to the team’s No. 1 singles player in the absence of Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta and acquitted herself well on both days against higher ranked Russian opponents.
For her part, Zvonareva admitted that there were moments against Vinci when the knowledge that she had Russia’s fate in her hands occasionally played on her mind.
“Definitely the desire to win and give the win to your team is there and sometimes this desire can push you forward but sometimes this desire can hold you back a little bit,” said the Russian.
“Of course you are on the court and you are constantly thinking about it, but at the same time you are trying to concentrate on taking one point at a time and win this match. You know the situation and you are trying but sometimes you are trying too hard and trying too hard is sometimes not good!”
At 4-4, the power and accuracy that took Zvonareva to last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals found its range with sudden venom and she forced a crucial break of serve.
It earned her a burst of noisy approval from the Sports Palace Megasport crowd as well as a Russian team bench that included former Fed Cup stars Anastasia Myskina and Elena Likhovtseva.
Despite a few further moments of uncertainty from Zvonareva as she served for the first set, she took the lead after 44 minutes.
Winning the first set seemed to settle Zvonareva and she looked a little more assured in the second, while Vinci never quite posed the same threat as she had in the first.
An early break of serve set the Russian on her way and she was soon celebrating victory in the match and the tie with her captain Shamil Tarpischev and her teammates.
Afterwards Zvonareva appeared to commit herself to being available for the final if selected, though Russia’s wealth of talented women players gives Tarpischev plenty of options to choose from.
“I’m always happy to represent my country,” said Zvonareva. “We have some time. I think we will get together with the captain, he will invite players and we will discuss who will be in the team but I am always happy to play in my country and play for Russia so hopefully. We will see.”
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Sara Errani 76(5) 76(4) in the fourth rubber before pairing up with Ekaterina Makarova to make it a clean sweep for the hosts after they overcame Alberta Brianti and Maria-Elena Camerin 76(3) 61 in the dead doubles rubber.
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 17/04/11
Captain Shamil Tarpischev (RUS) - 17/04/11
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) - 17/04/2011