Italy made an emphatic start to the defense of their Fed Cup title with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Australia in their quarter-final tie in Hobart yesterday.
Flavia Pennetta extended her winning streak in the competition to 10 matches with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Jarmila Groth following Francesca Schiavone’s 7-6 (7/1), 3-6, 7-5 win over Samantha Stosur in yesterday’s first reverse singles rubber.
Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani saved two match-points to fight back and beat the Australian combination of Rennae Stubbs and Anastasia Rodionova, 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 in the dead doubles rubber.
Groth registered a fighting 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3 comeback win over French Open champion Schiavone in her Cup debut for Australia on Saturday, but she was outclassed by Pennetta with the tie on the line.
Heading into a rematch of her meeting with Stosur in last year’s French Open final, Schiavone had spent a total of nine hours, 20 minutes on court in her three previous matches over the past fortnight.
However, the redoubtable Schiavone staved off 11 break points and broke Stosur’s serve for the only time in the last game of the match to give Italy the winning edge.
On Saturday Maria Sharapova’s first Fed Cup appearance in three years ended in tame defeat on as Russia went 2-0 down to France in their World Group quarter-final clash in Moscow.
Sharapova lost 6-3, 6-4 to Virginie Razzano after Alize Cornet had earlier given the visitors a 1-0 lead, producing a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Svetlana Kuznetsova.
In Antwerp, Belgium, Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer put Belgium 2-0 ahead of the US.
Wickmayer beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) and Clijsters defeated Melanie Oudin 6-0, 6-4.
Runners-up for the last two years, the US are playing without the injured Williams sisters.
“It was fun to be out here playing again,” Clijsters said. “Obviously it’s nice to come here and play after a win because the people have been so supportive. I’ve kept them up during the night with the time change with Australia and it’s nice to be back here, but I do look forward to having a few days off.”
The winners of the tie will face either the Czech Republic or Slovakia in the last four.
The Czechs opened up a 2-0 lead after the first day in Bratislava thanks to straight sets wins for Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova.