Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Italy set up Fed Cup final clash with Russia

By Tony Phillips  /  AFP , CASTELLANETA MARINA, ITALYSTAFF REPORTER

Francesca Schiavone celebrates after defeating Tatiana Golovin in the Fed Cup semi-final in Castellaneta Marina, Italy, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Defending champions Italy defied sweltering heat to come back from 2-1 down to beat France 3-2 and reach the Fed Cup final on Sunday.

The Italians will play Russia, who defeated the US 3-2 in the second semi-final, which also came down to the final doubles rubber.

Francesca Schiavione, who remained unbeaten throughout the weekend, teamed up with Roberta Vinci in the crucial doubles to see off Nathalie Dechy and Severine Bremond 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Italy will now face Russia, who beat the US 3-2, in the September 15-16 final.

France were left kicking themselves after throwing away a golden chance to wrap up the semi-final.

Amelie Mauresmo beat Mara Santangelo 6-7 (5/7), 6-0, 6-4 in Sunday's opening singles before Tatiana Golovin threw away a 5-2 final set lead to crumble to a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 defeat against Schiavone in the second singles rubber of the day.

Golovin became increasingly agitated with the passionate local crowd.

"She got angry and I don't understand it," said French captain Georges Goven. "She was nervous and the match went down the tubes. It's the first time I have seen her in that situation. It was a costly mistake."

Schiavone was included in the doubles team despite having spent 2hr 44min on court against Golovin taking the place of Santangelo.

Golovin gave France their first point of the tie when she beat Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in Saturday's opening rubber before the home side hit back when Schiavone beat Mauresmo in straight sets.

On Sunday, Santangelo gave it her best in the first set against Mauresmo immediately putting the former world number one on the back foot, who only took the lead in the seventh game at 4-3 converting the first break of the match.

However the French number one failed to keep her nose in front and eventually lost the tie-break despite winning the first five points.

Letting go of the first set seemed to wake Mauresmo up and the former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion came back in the second set, demolishing her rival 6-0 in just 25 minutes.

Following an obligatory 10-minute break due to the searing heat, Mauresmo got off to a bad start in the third set but recovered well to take the rubber.

In Stowe, Vermont, Nadia Petrova and Elena Vesnina overcame doubles standout Lisa Raymond and Wimbledon champion Venus Williams 7-5, 7-6 (7/1) to secure Russia's place in the final.

Williams was a last-minute addition in the do-or-die doubles, but to no avail.

She had already delivered two points for the US, including a quick 6-1, 6-4 victory over Anna Chakvetadze on Sunday that put the Americans 2-1 up.

But Petrova responded with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over inexperienced Meilen Tu to knot the tie at 2-2.

After heavy rain delayed the start of play, Williams powered to an early lead in the first set as Chakvetadze struggled with her serve, coughing up seven double faults.

Chakvetadze steadied herself in the second, but still couldn't manage to break the US veteran.

It was an easy win for Williams compared to Saturday, when she endured a nightmare match against Petrova but eked out a 7-6 (8/6), 0-6, 6-4 victory that saw the Americans finish the opening day level at 1-1.

Chakvetadze had opened the tie with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over 18-year-old American Vania King, who was replaced by Tu in Sunday's singles and then by Williams in the doubles as US captain Zina Garrison sought in vain to find a formula that would bring the Americans to the FedCup final for the first time since 2003.

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