MOSCOW, April 18: World number three Vera Zvonareva put Russia into a Fed Cup final meeting with the Czech Republic by beating Italy’s Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-2 here on Sunday.
That gave the Russians an unassailable 3-0 lead over the defending champions having won both the opening singles on Saturday.
And they promptly wrapped things up as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova outlasted Sara Errani 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) in the second return singles before Pavlyuchenkova teamed with Ekaterina Makarova to complete a whitewash with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 doubles win over Alberta Brianti and Maria-Elena Camerin.
“I took account of my mistakes in the first set and improved on them,” Zvonareva said. “I wanted so much to win today in front of our supporters to give our team the deciding point. I’m happy to win and to put our team into the final. It was one of the most emotional wins of my career.”
Zvonareva, losing finalist last year at Wimbledon and in the US Open, started the match with an immediate break and took a 2-0 lead, but Errani broke back in the sixth game to level at three games all.
But the Russian broke again in the ninth game to take the opening set in 45 minutes.
Games went with serve in the second set until the fifth game, when Zvonareva moved up a gear and broke her opponent’s serve twice to take the set and the match.
In the Fed Cup final Russia will face the Czechs, five times winners, who edged out Belgium in a close-fought tie at Charleroi in Belgium.
Petra Kvitova saw off Yanina Wickmayer 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 but Kirsten Flipkens hammered Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 6-3 to keep the Belgians in it and take matters down the doubles, where Iveta Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova overcame Flipkens and Wickmayer 6-4, 6-4.
Russia and Italy have dominated the premier women’s team competition in recent times winning all seven titles contested since 2004, with Russia triumphant in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 and Italy taking the prize in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
The Czechs’ last triumph came in 1988 as the old Czechoslovakia.
Italian hopes, however, were badly hit by the absence of their top players.
Flavia Pennetta, who is 20th in the WTA rankings, missed the match in Moscow because of an injury, while world number four, the reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, opted out to better prepare for the clay-court season.
There was an historic moment in the World Group playoffs when Germany’s Andrea Petkovic’s victory over Melanie Oudin of the United States on Sunday saw the 17-time winners drop out of the top flight for the first time in the competition’s 48-year history.
Results (all best of five):
World Group I:
Russia 5 Italy 0
Belgium 2 Czech Republic 3.—AFP