04/20/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/20/2019 16:49
Hosts Russia took a commanding 2-0 lead against Italy in their Fed Cup by BNP Parbias World Group II play-off after turning the tide in both opening singles rubbers on Saturday.
Anastasia Potapova rallied to beat Martina Trevisan 2-6 6-3 6-1 in a rip-roaring opening match before Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also dug deep to overpower Jasmine Paolini 7-6(4) 7-6(5), having trailed in both sets against her battling opponent.
The Italians, who are missing their top-ranked player Camilla Giorgi through a wrist injury, will be kicking themselves for wasting a string of chances to come away with something on the red clay of CSKA Moscow's indoor track and field complex.
Potapova was forced to dig deep into her resources in front of a partisan home crowd after the left-handed Trevisan could not put a foot wrong in the opening set, tormenting her rival with a barrage of volleys and forehand winners.
The Russian, in contrast, looked jittery as she hit only 27 percent of her first serve in the opening set. Trevisan wrapped it up with a stunning backhand winner down the line and appeared to be in complete control as she took a 2-0 lead in the second.
Roared on by the home fans, Potapova looked a different player from that point onwards as she seemed to move up two gears and won the next five games.
Trevisan had clearly ran out of steam as she suddenly had no reply for her rival's punishing ground strokes, although she broke back in the eighth game of the second set to give herself a fighting chance of staying in it.
However, Potapova clinched it with a fine backhand winner and never looked back after doing well to hold serve in the opening game of the third set which went to deuce.
With her confidence boosted, the home crowd favourite produced one delightful shot after another to blow away Trevisan and set the stage for an equally enthralling second singles rubber between Pavlyuchenkova and Paolini.
'I must thank this wonderful crowd for their support. The task for me was to put my first serve in and I finally got it going in the third game of the second set,' a delighted Potapova said in a courtside interview.
'I was nervous because my friends and family were here among the fans, and even more so after I was 6-2 and 2-0 down.
'But I played my best tennis when I needed to in order to turn the match on its head. I was five years old when I first watched Fed Cup tennis live and I have fulfilled my dream of playing for my country. It's an incredible feeling.'
Trevisan had no complaints about squandering a massive lead and acknowledged she was up against it after Potapova found her rhythm. 'Potapova is a good player and she raised her game when she needed to,' the Italian told a news conference.
'I had a chance to get back into my stride at 5-3 in the second set, after she had taken five games in row to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 5-2 lead, but it wasn't to be.
'I can only congratulate her because she relaxed after falling behind 6-2 2-0 and started putting in some shots.'
Pavlyuchenkova also looked in trouble after a blistering start by less heralded Paolini gave the Italian a 5-2 lead in the opening set, having broken her opponent's serve in the seventh game with a brilliant backhand cross court winner.
The Russian hit back with an equally stunning forehand to break back in the ninth and then dominated the tie-break as she kept nosing ahead after Paolini had won the opening point.
She capped it with an ace after Paolini blazed a pair of forehands well beyond the baseline but found herself on the back foot again when the Italian took a 3-1 lead in the second set.
Pavlyuchenkova hauled herself back into the set with a superbly executed backhand drop volley before rivals traded breaks to set up a dramatic climax, with the frustrated Paolini smashing another long forehand beyond the line to hand the Russian a 6-5 lead.
Paolini held serve with a love game to force another tie break and once again she was outdone although she fought bravely to cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 before Pavlyuchenkova sealed the match, much to the delight of the home fans.
Russia's team captain Igor Andreev was overjoyed to carry a 2-0 lead into Sunday.
'Both matches were super tough. The Fed Cup is a specific tournament as players' rankings often don't reflect what's happening on the court,' he told the International Tennis Federation.
'The quality of tennis was very good and we are looking forward to tomorrow. We are really very happy to have won both matches.'
He also praised Potapova for a tremendous fighting spirit which saw her overturn a massive deficit against Trevisan.
'Nerves are part of the game. She is a young player and obviously she needed some time to get into the match. It perhaps took longer than she expected but I am delighted the way she performed to come back from a set and a break down.'
Italy team captain Tathiana Garbin was not too disappointed.
'It will be a great learning curve for the girls, they both played really well and I am really happy for them,' she told a news conference.
'They will earn a lot of points on the WTA tour and surge up the rankings if they can continue playing at this level.'