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Errani and Vinci Clinch Fed Cup Tie for Italy Against U.S.

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci clinched the deciding point for Italy in their Fed Cup tie against the U.S. Varvara Lepchenko won her singles match earlier.

By Erik Gudris

Sara Errani Roberta Vinci (February 10th, 2013) -- Living up to their No. 1 ranking in doubles, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci teamed up to clinch the deciding point for Italy against the U.S. in their Fed Cup tie that went down to the final match this afternoon.

The day started with Italy and the U.S. tied at 1-1 when Errani and Varvara Lepchenko stepped onto the court in Rimini for their reverse singles rubber. Both women traded early breaks before Lepchenko punched away a forehand winner to soon open up a 4-2 lead.

But that lead evaporated as Errani broke back and soon served for the set at 5-4. But Lepchenko started to play more patient ball and that forced Errani to hit a few more errors than she would have liked. Lepchenko broke back and then held serve for 6-5.

Lepchenko played her best game of the set in the next game with aggressive returning and soon enough the set was hers at 7-5.

More errors from Errani allowed Lepchenko to earn a 3-1 lead in the second set and though the Italian had chances to pull within a game of the American, Lepchenko wouldn't allow her. Up 5-2, Lepchenko took advantage of her first match point when she engaged Errani in a long rally that ended when Errani's attempt at a drop shot failed to clear the net.

That gave Lepchenko a 7-5, 6-2 victory and with it her first career win over a top 10 player.

With the U.S. now up 2-1, it was up to Jamie Hampton to try and send her U.S. team into the semifinals as she faced Vinci in the second singles rubber. However, Vinci's clay court experience shown early as she easily outplayed Hampton to take the first set 6-2.

Hampton fought back and when Vinci began showing signs again of the cramping that affected her yesterday, Hampton took advantage by going up 5-2 in the second set. Though she failed to serve out the set on her first opportunity, Hampton finally closed out the set 6-4 and looked poised for the upset.

But as Vinci's level rose, Hampton's went on the decline as she couldn't stop the Italian from running away with the final set as Vinci sealed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win.

With the tie now leveled at 2-2, U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez made the decision to put Lepchenko into the doubles with Liezel Huber though Melanie Oudin had been scheduled earlier. Errani and Vinci themselves weren't scheduled either to play doubles, but with the tie in the balance, their captain had no choice but to ask them to suit up again.

Despite the veteran experience of Huber and Lepchenko playing some of her best tennis all week, the Americans were at a disadvantage as they lacked the cohesion of Errani and Vinci who recently won the doubles title in Melbourne.

After both teams traded early breaks, it was the Italians who won the next five games to take the first set 6-2.

The second set remained even until the Italians went ahead 3-1 thanks to fine net play from Vinci. Though the Americans broke right back, it would be their last time doing so as the Italians saved two break points in their next service game.

Once again it was Vinci who came through in the clutch as she hit a perfect volleyed lob on match point to seal the 6-2, 6-2 win and with it the tie for Italy 3-2.

"It's maybe the best day of my career," Vinci told FedCup.com afterwards."We really wanted it, we were very tired but today we managed to show a lot of heart, a lot of personality. We are a great team. I had to have various treatments and physiotherapy, massages almost until midnight. Yesterday was a horrible day and I'm glad I managed to come back today.

Italy will now face defending champions Czech Republic in the semifinals in April.

(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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