LONDON -- Russia, France and Italy each took commanding 2-0
leads Saturday in the first round of the Fed Cup.
Ninth-ranked Nadia Petrova and No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the
two highest-ranked players competing this weekend in World Group I,
got singles wins for Russia in the best-of-five series against
France also won both singles matches against visiting Japan,
while defending champion Italy did the same against China. Later
Saturday, the United States was playing Belgium.
Petrova gave Russia the lead by beating Anabel Medina Garrigues
6-3, 6-4 on clay in Moscow at the Luzhniki indoor arena. Petrova
trailed 4-1 in the second set before winning four consecutive
"It's been a while since I played for the team and I was quite
nervous," said Petrova, who has played only two matches for
Russia since 2001. "I really wanted to give my team the first
Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, then beat Lourdes
Dominguez-Lino 6-3, 6-2.
"She really made no difficulties for me today and I felt
comfortable to play," said Kuznetsova, who improved to 7-3 in the
The reverse singles and doubles matches are Sunday. Anna
Chakvetadze will team with Elena Vesnina in doubles against Laura
Pous-Tio and Nuria Llagostera Vives.
The winner will play either Belgium or the United States in the
semifinals on July 14-15.
Russia won back-to-back titles in 2004-05 but lost to eventual
finalist Belgium last year. Five-time champion Spain last won the
title in 1998.
Maria Sharapova, ranked second, had been expected to make her
Fed Cup debut for Russia this weekend, but she pulled out with an
injury. Top-ranked Justine Henin and No. 4 Kim Clijsters both
pulled out of Belgium's team in February because of busy schedules,
and third-ranked Amelie Mauresmo of France is injured.
Tatiana Golovin and Nathalie Dechy each got wins for France on
outdoor clay in Limoges.
The 18th-ranked Golovin, who won her first WTA Tour singles
title earlier this month at the Bausch & Lomb Championships, beat
Akiko Morigami 6-2, 6-4. Dechy led off by downing Ai Sugiyama 7-5,
"We're here to win three points," Dechy said. "We are highly
motivated. We know it's going to be tough matches."
In Sunday's doubles, Golovin will team with Severine Bremond
against Sugiyama and Ayumi Morita.
The winner of the series will take on Italy or China in the
Italy, which beat Belgium in last year's final for its first Fed
Cup title, took the lead when Tathiana Garbin held on to beat Sun
Tian Tian 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 at home on clay in Castellaneta Marina.
"I'm not too happy with how I played but it's OK," Garbin
said. "Emotionally, it was a difficult match. It's never easy to
be the first on court and I did well to keep my concentration."
Peng Shuai wasted a match point in the second set and then
retired with an injury to lose to Flavia Pennetta 0-6, 7-5, 3-0.
In Sunday's doubles, Mara Santangelo and Roberta Vinci will take
on Sun and Peng.