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By Chris Oddo

Kvitova and Safarova, Fed Cup 2013 (February 10, 2013) -- While the Czech Republic was keeping its bid for a Fed Cup three-peat alive, the Americans and Japanese were trying to pull off major upsets against heavily favored opponents. And that isn’t even the half of it. Read more as we go around the world in a few short paragraphs…

Czech Republic 4, Australia 0

Sam Stosur tried to inject the comeback spirit into the green and gold, and it worked… for a while, at least. After storming out to a one-set lead in 27 minutes against Petra Kvitova, Stosur got involved in a wild second set that featured six straight breaks of serve followed by three straight holds.

For Stosur, who tends to gravitate more to disappointment than jubilation these days, things would unravel after she failed to convert on a match point at 4-5. Kvitova would win the next three points to draw even at 5-5, and after falling behind a mini-break she rallied to take the second set tiebreaker.

With Stosur suffering psychological angst, Kvitova snapped off the first five games of the decider before the Aussie’s dark cloud lifted. But, as tends to be the case for Stosur these days, it was too late. Stosur took the next four games to get back on serve, then was broken while serving to level the set at five.

“I don’t think I did much wrong today,” Stosur said afterwards. “It was one that just slipped away.”

The win allows the Czechs to slip into the World Group semifinals where they will meet the Italians.

Italy 3, U.S.A. 2

Despite Varvara Lepchenko’s heroics in winning her first two Fed Cup singles matches on the red clay in Rimini, Italy, the Americans fell short when Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani took the deciding doubles rubber against Liezel Huber and Lepchenko, 6-2, 6-2. Read Erik Gudris’s full report on the tie here.

Russia 3, Japan 2

A valiant effort by Ayumi Morita of Japan wasn’t enough to secure her nation’s first trip to the World Group semifinals since 1996, as Ekaterina Makarova bounced back nicely to wallop Kimiko Date-Krumm in the fourth rubber, 6-1, 6-1, leveling things at two apiece and setting the state for a winner-take-all doubles rubber.

Earlier in the day, Morita had played what she described at “The best tennis I’ve played all year,” to defeat Elena Vesnina (a late replacement for an under-the-weather Maria Kirilenko), 6-4, 6-1.

But in the doubles rubber, the Russian pairing of Vesnina and Makarova took it to Morita and Misaki Doi, 6-2, 6-2.

Russia’s place in the World Group semifinals means that each of the last nine Fed Cup winners are all in the last four. Russia owns four of those last nine titles, but after taking four out of five Fed Cups from 2004-2008, Russia has not won since.

Slovak Republic 3, Serbia 2

With both teams looking like shadows of their former selves by late Sunday, the unlikeliest hero of the weekend had emerged in 19-year-old Jana Cepelova. Forced into emergency duty when Dominika Cibulkova’s cramping calf didn’t heal in time for Sunday’s action.

After Daniela Hantuchova defeated Vesna Dolonc 6-3, 6-2, Cepelova outlasted Bojana Jovanovski in a rollercoaster affair 5-7, 7-5, 11-9 in three hours and 18 minutes. It was by no means easy for the young Slovak. She would serve for the match at 5-4, 7-6 and 9-8 only to be thwarted by Jovanovski, who was also valiant in defeat as she suffered from a lower back that only got stiffer with each passing game.

Jovanovski, who announced she will pull out of Doha and Dubai to recover from her injuries, was quick to enlighten anybody who hadn’t noticed that she had been in pain, saying “I couldn’t serve properly all afternoon and the problem in my lower back only got worse after Saturday’s match with Cibulkova.”

Cepelova, meanwhile, didn’t seem to be concerned about how—or why—she had won. “It was a very emotional match for me,” she said. “We both fought hard and I came out on top after hanging in there when she appeared to be closer to the finish line,” she said.

World Group 2 Results:

Germany 3, France 1

Julia Goerges provided Germany with an insurmountable 3-0 lead over France in Amelie Mauresmo’s first tie as Captain when she defeated Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday in Limoges, France. The French took the doubles tie later in the day for consolation.

Spain 3, Ukraine 1

In Alicante, Spain, Conchita Martinez fared better in her first tie at the helm of Team Spain. Maria Teresa Torro-Flor won her first career Fed Cup match on Sunday to give Spain a 3-0 lead before the Ukraine took the doubles tie.

Sweden 3, Argentina 2

Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson capped off a tremendous comeback for Sweden on the red clay in Buenos Aires, as each won a singles match to level the tie, then the pair combined to take the doubles in straight sets to lift Sweden past upset-minded Argentina.

Switzerland 4, Belgium 1

Romina Oprandi spurred the Swiss to the upset of the weekend over Belgium by winning back-to-back singles tilts.

(Photo Credit: AP)


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