Vinci beats Panova as Italy takes lead vs Russia
CAGLIARI, Italy (AP) — Roberta Vinci overcame a surprisingly tough challenge by rallying from 5-2 down in the second set against unheralded Alexandra Panova to win 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 Saturday and give Italy a 1-0 lead against Russia in the Fed Cup final.
Vinci had to save four match points in total as Panova was on the verge of pulling off an upset on her Fed Cup debut, against a player ranked more than 100 places above the Russian.
However, the 13th-ranked Vinci managed to turn the match around to win in 3 hours, 13 minutes.
Russia has won the tournament four times in the past 10 years but has traveled to Italy without any of its top players, with some of them injured and some instead playing in the Tournament of Champions.
That makes Italy the overwhelming favorite to claim a fourth Fed Cup title and it looked as if things were going according to plan when Vinci won the opening two games.
However, Panova fought back and served out the first set at love after Vinci netted a forehand.
Panova continued to dominate and held three match points at 5-2 in the second set. But with teammates Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp furiously urging her on, Vinci managed to avoid being broken for a sixth successive time.
That sparked the turnaround, as the Italian won the next seven games
But the 136th-ranked Panova again fought back and had another match point at 5-4 in the final set but hit a backhand wide.
Vinci wasted her first match point when she hit a forehand long but secured the victory when Panova put a backhand volley wide, leaving the Italian in tears of joy.
Seventh-ranked Sara Errani faced 18-year-old Irina Khromacheva in the second singles match.