MILAN: Roberta Vinci secured Italy’s fifth Fed Cup final appearance in eight years on Monday after battling past Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to give the hosts an unassailable lead on the red clay of Palermo yesterday.
Vinci’s 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 win over Safarova handed Italy a 3-1 lead ahead of the dead doubles rubber to be played today.
Italy will now meet Russia, 3-2 winners on Sunday over Slovakia, in the final on Nov 2-3.
The hosts had powered to a 2-0 lead on Saturday after straight singles victories for Sara Errani and Vinci over Safarova and Petra Kvitova respectively.
Former Wimbledon winner Kvitova gave the Czechs hope of launching a fightback when she defeated Errani 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 on Sunday.
However any momentum gained, and indeed the day’s play, was soon halted by rain which had already disrupted proceedings, prompting the decision to carry the tie over to Monday. Vinci, who was tied at 1-1 from her previous two encounters with Safarova, showed little fear on her way to a commanding 6-3 win in the first set.
Safarova put up more resistance in the second and after spurning the chance to close out the set while serving at 5-4, she made amends in the tiebreak where she dropped just two points to force a decider.
The Czech burst into a 2-0 lead in the third set but Vinci broke back and maintained the pressure to take a 5-3 lead before sealing victory on her third match point.
Flavia Pennetta and Francesa Schiavone are slated to face Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the doubles later Monday.
In the other semis, four-time champions Russia became the first team to come back from 2-0 down in a Fed Cup semi-final to complete a 3-2 triumph over Slovakia.
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina sealed the crucial point when they beat Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the deciding doubles.
Makarova was praised for her efforts after she played two three-set matches on Sunday, having not featured at all on Saturday when Russia slipped 2-0 down to the 2002 champions. — AFP