Italy cruised to a fourth Fed Cup title yesterday when Sara Errani gave the hosts an unassailable 3-0 lead with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 victory over Russian Alisa Kleybanova.
Roberta Vinci and world No. 7 Errani had given Italy, the champions in 2006, 2009 and 2010, a 2-0 lead on Saturday with victories over Alexandra Panova and Irina Khromacheva respectively.
Italy’s Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzuti thanked his squad for their contribution to the victory, but stressed that his players were the “true stars.”
“They’re a great group of players and they’ve put us into the history books of the sport,” Barazzuti said.
“Sara was well focused on her final match... and in any case she’s a true champion. Everyone, from the coaches to the medical staff, contributed to this, but the players remain the true stars,” he said.
Kleybanova represented the depleted Russian team’s last chance to rescue their bid ahead of the final singles and concluding doubles rubbers later yesterday.
However despite showing glimpses of promise, notably a powerful serve which at times Errani struggled to return, the 24-year-old from Moscow was outclassed by the more experienced Italian.
Errani, 26, had the Cagliari Tennis Club in jubilant mood after racing to a 6-1 victory in the first set and although Kleybanova rallied in the second to take the third game on serve, Errani was never under threat.
The Italian broke Kleybanova to take a 4-1 lead when the Russian sent a wild return into the tramlines.
After reinforcing her advantage in the next game the Italian finished in style, breaking Kleybanova’s serve when the Russian fumbled a return at the net in the seventh and final game to secure the win.
It took Errani less than an hour to emerge victorious against the No. 183-ranked Kleybanova, who has only recently returned to the circuit following treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Vinci was due to meet Khromacheva in the final singles rubber, however, given Italy’s victory, it was not played.
The dead doubles rubber was to be played yesterday between Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp of Italy and Margarita Gasparyan and Moscow-born teenager Khromacheva.
On Saturday, Vinci gave Italy the first point with a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 victory over Alexandra Panova, the 24-year-old world No. 136 making her debut in the tournament.
Errani then breezed past Khromacheva, ranked 236 in the world, 6-1, 6-4 to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
Four-time champions Russia went into the final missing the injured Maria Sharapova while fellow top-30 players Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova opted instead to chase points and prize money at the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia.
That left Panova, only the 12th best player in her country and without a win on the main tour since February, as Russia’s top player.
Additional reporting by staff writer