2009, Italy leads 2-0
The opening line of
the Italian national anthem reads Fratelli di
Italia. Translated it means brothers of Italy. Theres
a strong argument that the sisters are here in
Castellaneta Marina this weekend and they are making
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.
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 Italians 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
Schiavones 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
Kuznetsovas 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 wasnt
forgotten: its good, this is for the team, she didnt
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
In the days 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
The Brindisi-born Pennetta, often mixing the pace to the
Russians forehand and drawing errors, broke three
times before closing the first set 6-4. Chakvetadzes
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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