The USA brought its B team, Italy brought it's B team. But an Italian B team is still Italian, and both Karin Knapp and Camila Giorgi thrived on the pressure of playing to keep their country in the top position as day1 of Fed Cup play ended with the Italians leading 2-0.
It took Knapp three sets to get past Christina McHale, but McHale's tendency to make unforced errors led to the Italian getting a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win. The second rubber was another matter entirely. Big-serving Madison Keys wound up flummoxed by the clever-serving and inventive Giorgi, who beat her 6-2, 6-1. Keys looked lost throughout the match, and again and again, she saw her second serve get clobbered by her opponent. Giorgi is an excellent defensive player who can also serve well, and today, Keys looked as though she had no idea how to handle that combination.
Playing the most entertaining tennis in the World Group were the teams from Germany and the Slovak Republic. Andrea Petkovic, a woman on a mission, beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7, 2-6 after Cibulkova held a match point. Petkovic's serve was huge today, and some of her defensive play was so athletic and clever, she made me think of Agnieszka Radwanska. She almost couldn't do anything wrong for much of the match.
The second rubber was entertaining, too, at least for the first set. Angelique Kerber and Daniela Hantuchova went at it until one of them--and it was Kerber--won a tiebreak 11-9. Pretty thrilling stuff. But then Hantuchova faded, and Kerber won the second set 6-1.
Most of the Czech Republic vs. Spain action today was canceled because of rain, though the competitors managed to get one rubber in. Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-4.
In the other World Group tie, Australia is leading Russia 2-0, as expected.
Here is the status of World Group II play after the first day:
Canada vs. Serbia, 2-0
Sweden vs. Poland, 1-1
France vs. Switzerland, 1-1
Argentina vs. Japan, 2-0
It's worth mentioning that Switzerland's victory came when Belinda Bencic beat Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-4.
And, as of 6 p.m. CST, the WTA website has finally decided to acknowledge that Fed Cup is being played this weekend.