Hobart, 5 February 2011 | AAP
Samantha Stosur was unable to hide her frustrations after falling to Flavia Pennetta in three sets in the second rubber of the first day’s play between Italy and Australia.
Jarmila Groth continued her dream summer with a stirring 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 comeback win over world No.4 Francesca Schiavone before Stosur came up painfully short against her career nemesis Flavia Pennetta in the second singles rubber.
Pennetta had never dropped a set in three previous meetings with Stosur and once again imposed her mental will over the world No.5 to squeeze out a tense 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-4 success that left the tie locked at 1-1.
Just three teams have managed to salvage victory from 2-0 down since the best-of-five-match format was adopted for World Group ties in 1995 and Pennetta conceded “everyone can breathe” now after the powerful Italians narrowly averted such a disastrous first-day deficit.
Stosur could well have won in straight sets but was twice broken to love while trying to serve out the first set from 5-4 up and then when attempting to close out the second from 5-3 in front.
“Any time you serve for the first two sets of the match, it’s obviously disappointing losing,” Stosur said.
“I wanted to get a better result against her today. It was better on the scoreboard, but still not a win.”
Deflated captain David Taylor also rued Australia’s near miss.
“You sit there in the press conference on Friday and say ‘yeah, I’d take one-all’, but it’s one-all and I feel like we had a pretty good opportunity to be two-zero,” he said.
“Having said that, wow, what an unbelievable debut from Jarmila – to play Fed Cup for your country for the first time and beat the No.4 in the world and have a career-best win.
“So, from that perspective, it’s just fantastic for our team.
“And Sam played a girl that she hadn’t previously won a set from and ending up serving for two sets and eventually lost a very close match.
“So I’m very proud of both my girls and the way that they fought hard. If they can fight like that tomorrow, then we can win.”
Stosur vowed to regroup for her French Open final rematch against Schiavone in Sunday’s first reverse singles rubber.
Groth then takes on Pennetta for the first time since their only career encounter in Toronto four years ago.
Stosur leads Schiavone 5-2 head-to-head and a repeat of her success over the Italian in their last-up clash at the WTA Championships in Doha in October would give Groth the chance to secure Australia a semifinal in April against either Russia or France.
“She played great today so, if I can try and put us in a position from where we can win, that would be fantastic and take a little bit of pressure off Jarka,” Stosur said.
Taylor has named dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anastasia Rodionova to partner veteran Rennae Stubbs in the doubles against Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani.
But team captains have until 15 minutes after the fourth singles rubber to change their line-ups and Taylor hasn’t ruled out drafting in Stosur, a multiple grand slam doubles champion with a 6-0 win-loss record in Cup doubles matches.
Watch the Australia versus Italy Fed Cup World Group clash live on Fox Sports on 6 February or follow the live scores on tennis.com.au.
Sunday 6 January TV guide
The replay of Saturday’s first two singles rubbers will be shown at 9:00 am on Sunday on Fox Sports 3 (no red button required), immediately before the live coverage of Day 2, which begins at 11 am.