Tue, Feb 08, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Russia to face champs Italy in Fed Cup semi


Russia’s Maria Sharapova, left, and Dinara Safina celebrate after Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Alize Cornet of France in their Fed Cup match in Moscow on Sunday.


Russia came from 2-0 down to beat France on Sunday and book a Fed Cup semi-final against two-time defending champions Italy.

Italy won all three of Sunday’s matches to beat Australia 4-1, while Belgium’s comfortable 4-1 win over the US set up a semi-final against the Czech Republic, who saw off Slovakia 3-2.

Russia lost both singles matches on Saturday, but captain Shamil Tarpischev’s decision to replace Maria Sharapova with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Sunday proved inspired.

Pavlyuchenkova beat Alize Cornet 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first reverse singles and later teamed up with Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the doubles and complete Russia’s comeback in Moscow.

Russia were only the fourth team since 1995 to come back from 2-0 down to win a Fed Cup World Group tie.

The 14th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova lost to Francesca Schiavone of Italy on her debut in the 2009 semi-finals, but recovered from losing the first set to see off Cornet on Sunday.

“The pressure on me was really tough,” she said. “On the court today, I often remembered that my first match was also a decisive one. I thought that if I lose this one as well I would not survive it.”

Kuznetsova leveled the tie at 2-2 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Virginie Razzano before Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova won the doubles 7-6 (4), 6-0 to send Russia into the semi-finals and extend their unbeaten home run to eight ties.

Russia’s reward is another home tie against Italy.

Belgium made light of the absence of the recently retired Justine Henin with a dominant 4-1 win over the US.

The hosts were already 2-0 up after the first day and the No. 2-ranked Kim Clijsters beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-2, 6-1 in Sunday’s opening match to seal the win.

Yanina Wickmayer gave Belgium a clean sweep in the singles with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Melanie Oudin, before Liezel Huber and Vania King scored a consolation point in the doubles by beating Kirsten Flipkens and An-Sophie Mestach 6-3, 7-5.

“Unfortunately we came up against a better team in Belgium,” US captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. “It was really too tough with Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer, they really were a level above.”

Up next for Belgium is a home tie against the Czech Republic, who sealed their progress when Petra Kvitova won her second singles match of the tie by beating Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2.

Kvitova’s win put the Czechs 3-0 up before Slovakia won the final two meaningless matches.

Slovakia, like all the teams beaten in the first round, will go through to the World Group playoffs on April 16 and April 17, when the semi-finals will also be played.

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