Ostrava: Straight-set wins by Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova put the defending champions Czech Republic 2-0 up against Italy in their Fed Cup tennis semi-final, on Saturday.
Playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in two years, the Czechs began the highly-anticipated matchup with Safarova winning a first-set tiebreak against a struggling Francesca Schiavone, who was hobbled by a back injury.
Safarova built on that to breeze to a 6-1 win in the second set.
“I was hoping to win the (first) set because I had a break 5-4 serving for the set,” she said. “I really didn’t want to lose that set, but I turned it and was able to win in the tiebreak so it was amazing.”
World No. 3 Kvitova took less time to power past Italy’s Sara Errani, beating her 6-4, 6-3 in 81 minutes.
The Czechs and Italians have won the last three Fed Cups, with the Czech Republic beating Russia last year for their first title since they won in 1988 as Czechoslovakia.
Italy have won the past four head-to-head meetings. Kvitova will play Schiavone on Sunday, while Safarova is slated to play Errani.
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are scheduled to play Italy’s Errani and Roberta Vinci in the doubles.
The winners of the tie will take on the winners of the Russia-Serbia match-up.
In the second semi-final in Moscow, Svetlana Kuznetsova survived a second-set wobble to brush aside Ana Ivanovic and bring Russia level at 1-1 with Serbia.
After Russian No. 2 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was beaten by Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 6-3 in the opening singles rubber, Kuznetsova prevailed over Ivanovic 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to even the two-day tie for the hosts.
“Ana always is a difficult opponent for me,” former world No. 2 Kuznetsova, who has slipped to No. 27 after struggling to regain her top form this season, told reporters.