Italy completes comeback win over USA

by: | February 10, 2013

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The world’s top doubles team powered Italy past the United States into its fifth straight Fed Cup semifinal.

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci controlled the center of the court and volleyed brilliantly on big points to sweep Liezel Huber and Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2, 6-2, in today’s decisive doubles match. The 71-minute victory lifted host Italy to a 3-2 victory over the United States, completing a comeback from a 2-1 deficit.  

Italy will host the two-time defending champion Czech Republic in the April 20-21st semifinals. The Czechs swept Australia, 4-0, in Ostrava to earn their seventh straight Fed Cup victory. The Czech Republic defeated Italy, 4-1, in the 2012 semifinals, avenging a 5-0 thrashing from the Italians in the 2010 semifinals.

Making her American Fed Cup debut this weekend, Lepchenko dismissed French Open finalist Errani, 7-5, 6-2, to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead. Vinci roared out to a 5-0 lead in the final set to dispatch American Jamie Hampton, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 and deadlock the tie, 2-2, forcing the decisive doubles on the red clay of Rimini.

Playing the ad side, the left-handed Lepchenko hit a running forehand pass up the line for break point and Huber followed with an angled overhead winner to give the Americans the first break and a 2-1 lead.

The deficit seemed to jolt the Italians into action: Errani drilled a backhand winner down the line for triple break point then followed with a slick backhand lob winner as Italy broke back at love to forge a 2-2 tie. That sparked a run of six straight games for the Italians, who sealed the opening set with synergy on their third set point. Errani struck a backhand return crosscourt, forcing Huber to dig out a defensive reply. Moving to her left to cut off the angle, Vinci knifed a forehand volley winner down the middle as Italy took a one-set lead.

At net, the reigning Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open champions often moved in unison as if connected by a cord. They won 21 of 27 trips to the net, compared to the Americans, who converted 18 of 33 front-court opportunities.

An Errani overhead winner gave Italy the break and a 3-1 second-set lead, before the teams traded breaks. The Italians fought off two break points before holding for 5-2 on the strength of an Errani backhand volley winner. On match point, a poaching Vinci dug out a low volley and floated the ball over Huber's outstretched racquet as the Italians ended the match with a shared embrace.

Vinci raised her Fed Cup doubles record to 18-0 — the best doubles mark in Fed Cup history — with 10 of the 18 victories coming on clay.

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