Not long before the Fed Cup semifinals began, there was talk of an easy win by Russia and of weak and non-competitive Italian players. I found that amusing, given that Flavia Pennetta--despite having a poor season, so far--is a top player on clay and hard courts, and that Francesca Schiavone is possibly the best Fed Cup competitor in the world. My amusement has now expanded, for it is Italy, not defending champion Russia, who goes to the 2009 Fed Cup final.
Certainly, it is always a reasonable prediction that Russia will reach the final; the phenomenal Russian team has reached the final--and won it--so many times. But it is not reasonable to think that anyone will run over Italy.
Going into today with a 2-0 lead, Italy dropped a rubber when Svetlana Kuznetsova handily defeated Pennetta, 6-0, 6-3. But then Schiavone defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6, 4-6, 6-2. Her win sealed Italy's place in the November final.
In the doubles rubber, Italy defeated Russia 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. The winning team members were Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci; Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Petrova played for Russia.