By Erik Gudris / November 2, 2013
Roberta Vinci came back from multiple match points down to help Italy take an early 2-0 lead versus Russia in
the Fed Cup finals.
Photo Credit: AP
Fielding an experienced team and playing at home in Sardinia, Italy claimed an early 2-0 lead versus Russia on day one of the Fed Cup finals.
But the Russians, led by Alexandra Panova, came very close to making it a tied contest heading into the second day of competition.
Panova took on Roberta Vinci in the opening singles rubber. Despite Vinci being the clear favorite, the veteran Italian showed obvious nerves early on in the first set. Panova, who took hold of a break lead to go up 5-4, soon proved to be a literal pain in the neck for Vinci.
After Panova served out the set 6-4, Vinci called a medical time out to deal with a sore neck.
Panova continued her charge in the second set and soon served for the match up 5-2, 40-15. But Vinci denied both match points against her and then broke for 5-3. A few games later, Panova once again failed to serve out the match and the set was knotted at 5-all.
A netted forehand from Panova down set point gave Vinci the set 7-5 and breathed new life into the vocal 5,000 plus crowd cheering on the Italians. With Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta cheering from the sidelines, the match only got more dramatic as it entered its final set.
Both players traded several breaks of serve in early stages of the third set. But it was Panova who jumped ahead 5-3 after Vinci netted a backhand. Once again Panova served for the match a game later at 5-4.
Though she fell behind 0-40, Panova soon held her another match point thanks to a curling backhand pass winner. Vinci fought it off though and with a drop shot followed up by a well-timed lob, Vinci broke back for 5-all.
The set went into advantage games after an angry Panova smacked down an ace to hold for 6-all. Vinci held her own serve forcing Panova to try and extend the match once again.
A fifth double fault from Panova set up Vinci's first match point. Vinci blew her chance by sending a forehand wide but got a second match point with a volley winner.
A final error from Panova sealed the improbable 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 victory for Vinci after three hours and 13 minutes of play. An emotional Vinci collapsed into her coach's arms to celebrate the win.
Things were much more straightforward in the second singles rubber featuring Sara Errani against Irina Khromacheva.
Errani rolled through the opening set 6-1. But Khromacheva began to enjoy her time on court and made the second set more of a contest. It wasn't enough though as Errani soon closed out the 6-1, 6-4 win.
Italy now leads 2-0 and only need to claim one more point to win their fourth Fed Cup title.