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Russia recovers well to make Fed Cup final, sets Italy date

Russia recovers well to make Fed Cup final, sets Italy date
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Four-time champions Russia became the first team to come back from 2-0 down in a Fed Cup semifinal to complete a 3-2 triumph over Slovakia on Sunday.

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.

Russia will face Italy in November’s final.  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.  “She’s amazing. We were joking that she’s like a soldier,” Makarova’s doubles partner Elena Vesnina said.  “She has a bleeding knee and she won such an amazing match - one of the most emotional matches she has won. And then in the doubles, she was feeling tired, but she’s a great fighter.”

Meanwhile, Serena and Venus Williams delivered singles victories on Sunday to lift the United States to a 3-2 Fed Cup playoff victory over Sweden that will keep America in the elite World Group.

Venus Williams persevered to deliver the clinching point, sealing a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Johanna Larsson on her eighth match point.

 Venus was given singles duty at the last minute by US captain Mary Joe Fernandez, who apparently felt that 20-year-old Sloane Stephens hadn’t bounced back adequately from her error-strewn 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 loss to Sofia Arvidsson in the opening match of the tie on Saturday.  World number one Serena Williams had put the Americans back on track Saturday with a win over Larsson, and she put the 17-time champion United States up 2-1.

‘Today I played better. I had to going up against the number one player from Sweden who had a really good win over our star player in America,’ said Williams, who stretched her perfect Fed Cup singles record to 10-0.  ‘It was important for me to take this match really serious.’  

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.

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 Monday afternoon. Defending champions Italy will now meet Russia, winners on Sunday over Slovakia, in the final on November 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 but that seemed not enough.
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