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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, February 8, 2015

Caroline Garcia

Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic each won a singles match and powered past Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in doubles to lead France's 3-2 comeback conquest of host Italy.

Photo credit: Ray Giubilo/Fed Cup Facebook

Shutout on opening day, French captain Amelie Mauresmo decided to shake things up with her team facing an 0-2 deficit in Genoa today.

Replacement starter Kristina Mladenovic and a recharged Caroline Garcia collaborated for a stirring French rally that rocked the Italians and seemed to surprise the French players themselves.

The pair partnered to thrash the world's top ranked doubles team, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 6-1, 6-2, in the decisive doubles match to complete an inspired 3-2 comeback victory for France.

"I was either going to be a genius or a nonsense captain. Luckily it went our way!" Mauresmo told afterward. "I'm so proud of the girls, they put some amazing stuff out there on the court."

Caroline Garcia, Kristina Mladenovic

Mauresmo tapped Mladenovic to replace French No. 1 Alize Cornet in the first reverse singles against former French Open finalist Errani. It was a game-changing decision.

The 5-foot-4 Italian uses her kick serve as a point starter, but it sat up in the 6-foot Frenchwoman's strike zone. Errani served 90 percent in the match but won just 40 percent of those points as Mladenovic repeatedly stepped forward to punish returns.

Mladenovic scored one of her biggest singles wins when she upset then world No. 2 Li Na in the Roland Garros first round last May. She played with the same commanding aggression today. Controlling the center of the court, Mladenovic made the grunting Italian defend on the move. Mladenovic forced short, spinny replies that sat up near mid-court and pounded 37 winners compared to 14 for Errani in an 88-minute match that put France on the scoreboard.

Only one spot in the rankings separate the 30th-ranked Garcia from world No. 31 Giorgi. But after dropping the opening set of their first meeting, Garcia quickly accelerated past an erratic Giorgi. Dictating with her serve, Garcia ran off 12 of the final 14 games in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory that deadlocked the tie and set the stage for the decisive doubles.

Giorgi couldn't stop the free fall hitting 10 double faults, while Garcia hit 10 aces and saved three of four break points.

The shell-shocked Italian veterans had no answers for Garcia and Mladenovic in doubles.

"Of course it was not a good day for us after 2-0 yesterday. Losing three matches is tough, but sometimes it can happen," Vinci said. "They [Mladenovic and Garcia] played so good, they played unbelievably, but it was not enough. We are so sad right now, but we're looking ahead to the next round."  

Germany 4, Australia 1

Hiking is one of Andrea Petkovic's hobbies. Petkovic's sense of direction served her well in another overtime adventure in Stuttgart today.

Changing direction down the line shrewdly, Pektovic defeated Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6, clinching Germany's second straight Fed Cup semifinal appearance.

Andrea Petkovic

World No. 10 Angelique Kerber opened today's play sweeping Samantha Stosur, 6-2, 6-4 in 87 minutes to give the host a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five match tie. The Australian No. 1 suffered her fourth consecutive Fed Cup loss as the burden for team survival fell on Gajdosova's shoulders.

Given the fact Petkovic withstood a tense three hour, 16-minute skirmish with Stosur before prevailing 12-10 in the third set yesterday, it would be reasonable to think perhaps Petkovic's legs and nerves might be tight when matters escalated in the decider today.

The 12th-ranked German shook off the stress and applied pressure at the right time, while Gajdosova's aggression cost her in the final game.

Following four service breaks in the final set, Pektovic held at 15 for 7-6. The serve-forehand was a winning pattern for the Australian throughout the match: Gajdosova smacked 10 aces and hit 17 forehand winners. But both shots were shaky when she served to extend at 6-7.

The world No. 54 missed a forehand down the line then dragged Petkovic off the court but overplayed a forehand swing volley wide to face double match point at 15-40. Sitting on Gajdosova's kick serve out wide, Petkovic hammered a backhand return down the line, the Australian's forehand reply sailed long and Petkovic dropped her racquet and raised her arms in joy.

Petkovic, who fell in three sets to American Madison Brengle in the Australian Open first round, is undefeated in three-setters in Fed Cup competition.

Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki edged Casey Dellacqua and Olivia Rogowska, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (7), 10-6 in the dead doubles rubber. 

Russia will host Germany in the April 18-19th semifinals.

Russia 4, Poland 0

Maria Sharapova swept Polish No. 1 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 7-5, giving Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead over host Poland in Krakow.

Sharapova spent the weekend after her loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final beating up on the Radwanska sisters. She surrendered only three games in overwhelming Urszula Radwanska yesterday and denied five of six break points and hit more than twice as many winners (39 to 16) in overpowering Aga Radwanska today.

It marked the first time in Sharapova's career she closed out a Fed Cup victory. Sharapova said playing on Radwanska's home court demanded complete focus and provoked tension at the finish.

When she finally did the reigning Roland Garros champion hugged her captain, former French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, in celebration.

"I think needed to [play my best]. I was playing in Krakow in front of Aga's family and all her supporters in Poland its a difficult match with her coach on the bench as well," Sharapova told Fed afterward. "It's like everything was against me today. But I just tried to keep my focus and focus on myself. And I had a great team supporting me here." The scheduled second reverse singles between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Urszula was cancelled. Russia won the dead doubles rubber to account for the 4-0 final score.


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