Pennetta guides Italy into final

Holders sail past Czech Republic

World number 15 Flavia Pennetta, who has never threatened in the individual Grand Slams, displayed her special attachment to the team competition by defeating Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 to give Italy an unassailable 3-0 lead in the semifinal.

The rout was completed after Sara Errani defeated Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-2 to make it 4-0 for Italy.   

On Saturday, Italy took a 2-0 lead with straight-sets singles wins from Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone.

Pennetta fought back in both sets to seal a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Lucie Hradecka in the first rubber and Schiavone barely broke sweat in dispatching Lucie Safarova in the second singles match, winning 6-0, 6-2.

Russia-US level

Elena Dementieva and Melanie Oudin won their opening singles matches on Saturday to leave the Fed Cup semifinal between Russia and the United States tied at 1-1.
Oudin gave the hosts a perfect start when she recorded a 6-3, 6-3 win over Alla Kudryavtseva before Dementieva levelled the tie at the indoor hard court in Birmingham, which kept the players away from the storms battering Alabama.

The Olympic champion, ranked sixth in the world, defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 6-3 set the stage for a tense final day that will begin with her reverse singles rubber against Oudin.

Oudin, shouldering the burden of being America's top-ranked singles player after Serena and Venus Williams declared themselves unavailable, recovered from slow starts in both sets to beat Kudryavtseva, ranked almost 50 places below her and making her Fed Cup debut. The best-of-five tie will be decided on Sunday with two reverse singles and a concluding doubles rubber.


Results: In Rome: Italy lead Czech Republic 3-0 (Francesca Schiavone bt Lucie Safarova 6-0, 6-2. On Saturday: Flavia Pennetta bt Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 7-5; Flavia Pennetta bt Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-3), 6-2).

In Alabama: US tied with Russia 1-1 (Bethanie Mattek-Sands lt to Elena Dementieva 4-6, 3-6; Melanie Oudin bt Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-3).

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