Fed Cup 2009, Italy leads 2-0



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Sunday April 26, 2009


Fed Cup 2009, Italy leads 2-0

The opening line of the Italian national anthem reads “Fratelli di Italia”. Translated it means brothers of Italy. There’s a strong argument that the sisters are here in Castellaneta Marina this weekend and they are making themselves heard.

Two rubbers into this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal and the two-time defending champion
Russia trails the home side 2-0, thanks to astonishing victories from Italians Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

As every single man, woman and child stood to applaud Schiavone off the court after her three-set win over
Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second rubber, the Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti offered this thought - “Francesca is a player made for this competition”.

Schiavone redeems 2007 final loss

Hard to disagree. She may have beaten two world number ones in her time but this win will rank highly, if not only for the ambiance that it played out. Schiavone needed some inspiration after dropping the first set 61, Kuznetsova dominating the points with her heavy hitting. As the weather changed though, so did the course of the match.

A baking hot spring sun emerged and Schiavone lit up, grinding away as the points became longer and longer suiting the Italian’s pugnacious style. She led the second 4-1 and broke Kuznetsova from 40-0 down at 5-2 to put herself in charge of the set and back in the game.

Both left the court before the start of the third but Schiavone’s will stayed put. She landed the first blow at the start of the third; a brilliant love service game with three clean winners took her to 2-1.

Three service breaks later and Schiavone was serving for the match at 5-3. The Russian battered the backhand side but the 28-year-old Schiavone held firm as she watched a forehand drift long and launch the celebrations.

The only sour note as she lapped up applause was Kuznetsova’s refusal to shake hands, though that was not going to take off the shine from what was a wonderful win. Two years ago she let match points slip against the same opponent in the final in Moscow, something that wasn’t forgotten: “its good, this is for the team, she didn’t play so good but I put her under pressure and she could not do her best. One time for her after losing match points and now one time for me.”

Family affair for Pennetta

In the day’s opening rubber Flavia Pennetta brushed aside an out-of-form Anna Chakvetadze for the loss of just 4 games. The first set proved somewhat of a catharsis for the Italian who grew in stature as the match progressed.

The Brindisi-born Pennetta, often mixing the pace to the Russian’s forehand and drawing errors, broke three times before closing the first set 6-4. Chakvetadze’s plight became even more desperate after an early break in the second, the look of despair she almost always seems to carry onto court becoming ever more visible.

It was a special moment for Pennetta who admitted afterwards that with her nervous father and grandfather among the fans it meant so very much.

So for the first time since they played Belgium in Madrid in 2001, Russia have lost the opening two rubbers of a Fed Cup match. The fightback - if there is to be one - must start with Kuznetsova on Sunday morning who is almost certain to line up against Pennetta. If she can win, captain Shamil Tarpischev may shuffle his pack with Nadia Petrova on the bench.


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