MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russia is one match win away from a place in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semi-finals after Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova put the home team 2-0 up over Italy in Moscow.
Zvonareva set the tone with a 60 62 demolition of Errani in the opening match of the tie. Kuznetsova was then made to battle by a determined Roberta Vinci before prevailing 62 67(4) 61 in the second singles rubber.
Saturday’s wins for Russia mean that Zvonareva could seal victory for the team against Vinci in Sunday’s first reverse singles match, though there was no hint of complacency in the Russian camp. For his part, Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti sounded an optimistic, if philosophical, note as he looked ahead to what is likely to be another challenging day for his team.
“We have to acknowledge that the Russians played very well today. They have great players,” he said. “Tomorrow is another day and if the Russians win, then we have to congratulate them but we will have to see what’s up tomorrow because anything can happen.”
After Zvonareva’s one-sided win, Kuznetsova and Vinci produced a battle that owed plenty to the Italian’s swashbuckling tennis style, which was most evident in the second set. At one stage, Vinci led 4-1 and had a ball for 5-1 before being pushed to a tiebreak. It was a sequence of events which was to rob her of much-needed energy for the third set.
“The first set was pretty comfortable as I think I played the right way but in the second set she started to come in because I think she knew that she could not win from the baseline and then it got a little bit tougher,” said Kuznetsova. “In the third set I tried to keep her under pressure and that went well. Overall I think it was a good match.”
Afterwards, Vinci was left ruing missed opportunities. “She is a great player. She has won grand slams and though I fought I lost the match,” she said. “She was serving great, not spinning, but very flat, and I couldn’t break her. After that it was very tough.”
Zvonareva had been in imperious form in the opening rubber and appears to be relishing the chance to play for her country and in front of her home crowd for the first time since 2008. She set about breaking the Errani serve early in the first set and did not let up in a 25-minute barrage that ended with her winning the first set for the loss of no games and barely a handful of points.
By the time Errani got herself on the scoreboard, half an hour into the match, there were hints that she might be able to at least detain the Russian. The Italian held serve in the opening game of the second set but despite serving well – as she did throughout the match – she found herself on the end of a relentless barrage from the Russian half of the court thereafter.
The World No. 3 allowed the Italian just one more game before closing out the match to put her team ahead. “When I woke up this morning I was nervous because I am excited to play here to play for my country,” said Zvonareva. “You have to work hard to stay focused and keep your concentration sometimes but I did a good job today.”
Errani must now rouse herself for a meeting with Kuznetsova tomorrow in the fourth rubber, though that match will only be live if Vinci can find a way to upset Zvonareva in Sunday’s first match, which is scheduled to begin at 14:00 Moscow time. If Italy wins both Sunday’s singles points – which would be a feat to equal any in the country’s illustrious Fed Cup history – then the semifinal will be decided by the doubles.
Watch the tie live on: FedCup.tv
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 16.04.11
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 16/04/2011
Roberta Vinci (ITA) - 16/04/2011
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) - 16/04/2011