Cagliari - Italy have closed in on a fourth Fed Cup title on Saturday when they opened up a 2-0 lead over a weakened Russia in the final in Cagliari.
Vinci gave Italy, the champions in 2006, 2009 and 2010, the first point
with a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 victory over Alexandra Panova, the
world number 136 making her debut in the tournament.
seven Sara Errani then breezed past teenager Irina Khromachava, ranked
236 in the world, 6-1, 6-4 to give the hosts a 2-0 lead ahead of
Sunday's reverse singles and doubles.
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.
"When I played aggressively, it
was much better. At the end, it was important to get the win," said
Vinci after her three-hour 13-minute encounter.
Vinci had the partisan crowd on their feet after racing to a 4-0 lead on the slow red clay of the Cagliari tennis club.
the 30-year-old Italian, ranked 13th in the world, was stunned by an
impressive fightback from her younger opponent who claimed the first
Vinci was trailing 5-2 in the second set but was helped enormously when Panova committed a series of unforced errors.
Italian served to reduce the arrears to 5-4 and dug deep in the next
game, forcing more errors to break serve and draw level before gaining
momentum and finally taking the second set 7-5.
In the deciding set, Vinci launched another spirited fightback, drawing level at 5-5 and took the next game to love.
dug deep on serve to pull level at 6-6 before Vinci took a 7-6 lead
when she lobbed the Russian who had made a naive dash to the net before
sealing the match when Panova's nerves got the better of her in the
"It's hard to judge the ups and downs from the ground when you are on the court," said Panova.
"You are just trying to figure out how to win a point.
felt like my serve wasn't with me because I had a very low percentage
on the first serve. I only had one ace so I had to play every point of
the rally and that's not what I usually do."
Errani had few problems against Khromacheva, also making her first Fed Cup appearance, wrapping up her win in just 85 minutes.
had been preferred to Alisa Kleybanova, the only Russian player with
Fed Cup experience, by team captain Shamil Tarpichev.
"She is young and has a lot of talent. It's never easy to play against someone you do not know," Errani told RaiSport1.
Errani will have the chance to seal the tie on Sunday when she faces Panova in the first of the reverse singles.
is due to meet Khromacheva before the final concludes with a doubles
rubber between Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp and Kleybanova and
Results from the Fed Cup final between Italy and Russia at the Tennis Club Cagliari on Saturday:
Italy 2 Russia 0
Roberta Vinci (ITA) bt Alexandra Panova (RUS) 5-7, 7-5, 8-6
Sara Errani (ITA) bt Irina Khromachava (RUS) 6-1, 6-4
Sara Errani (ITA) v Alexandra Panova (RUS)
Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Irina Khromacheva (RUS)
Flavia Pennetta/Karin Knapp (ITA) v Alisa Kleybanova/Margarita Gasparyan (RUS)