MOSCOW (Reuters) - Italy’s defense of their Fed Cup crown fell by the wayside against Russia on Sunday prompting Roberta Vinci to criticize compatriots Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta for withdrawing from the team.
Vinci lost 6-4 6-2 to Vera Zvonareva as Russia powered to their first Fed Cup final in three years with a 5-0 drubbing while in the other semi-final Czech Republic beat Belgium 3-2 thanks to a last rubber win in the doubles.
“If they didn’t want to come it’s their problem,” world number 37 Vinci told a news conference when asked about the withdrawals of world number four Schiavone and 20th ranked Pennetta, their two leading players.
“I don’t care about Schiavone and Pennetta, they are not on this team. Right now I‘m number one for Italy and Sara (Errani) is number two. We’re here and we try to give our best.”
Schiavone skipped the semi-final tie to concentrate on the defense of her French Open title while Pennetta was ruled out with a shoulder injury, leaving the three-times champions with only a slim chance.
The Russians, with world number three Zvonareva and former U.S. and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova leading the charge, had been the overwhelming favourites.
Russia, who won the women’s team competition four times between 2004 and 2008, will host the Czechs in November.
Zvonareva had little sympathy for the holders and after crushing Errani 6-0 6-2 in Saturday’s opener was just as dominant on Sunday.
She broke Vinci in the ninth game for a 5-4 lead before serving out the first set then going on to seal a comfortable victory after 74 minutes.
“It was a very emotional win for me,” Zvonareva said.
“I knew it would give my team an unassailable 3-0 lead and put us in the final. So maybe that’s why I was a bit more nervous and probably made a few more mistakes than yesterday.”
Cheered on by a sparse home crowd, Zvonareva was never really troubled by Vinci but paid tribute to her opponent.
“Roberta is a tough opponent and she just wouldn’t give it to me without a fight. But after she went ahead 4-3 in the first set, I was able to raise my game and played smart tennis.”
Vinci agreed with her opponent, saying: ”Yes, that was probably the turning point in the match. She led 3-1, then it was 4-3 for me but after that she just played very very well.
“I tried to do my best but it was not good enough to win the match,” added the Italian, who also lost 6-2 6-7 6-1 to Kuznetsova in Saturday’s singles.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, replacing Kuznetsova for the last singles, edged out Errani 7-6 7-6 before teaming up with Ekaterina Makarova to beat Alberta Brianti and Maria-Elena Camerin 7-6 6-1 and complete the whitewash.
The Czechs, in their first final since they won the title in 1988 as Czechoslovakia having lost in the semi-finals the last two years, had doubles pair Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to thank for a 6-4 6-4 final rubber victory.
Their opponents Kirsten Flipkens, who beat Zahlavova Strycova earlier on Sunday to put the tie in the balance at 2-2, and Yanina Wickmayer who lost to Petra Kvitova in the day’s opener, were broken late in both sets to concede the tie.
Editing by Tom Pilcher