Update 5:35 pm. Two-time defending champions Italy have secured victory over Australia in a topsy-turvy Fed Cup quarterfinal tie in Hobart.<!--more--> World No.16 Flavia Pennetta extended her winning streak in the competition to 10 matches with a 6-3 6-2 triumph over the 31st-ranked Jarmila Groth after tennis ironwoman Francesca Schiavone…
Hobart, 6 February 2011 | AAP
Update 5:35 pm. Two-time defending champions Italy have secured victory over Australia in a topsy-turvy Fed Cup quarterfinal tie in Hobart.
World No.16 Flavia Pennetta extended her winning streak in the competition to 10 matches with a 6-3 6-2 triumph over the 31st-ranked Jarmila Groth after tennis ironwoman Francesca Schiavone outlasted Samantha Stosur in 7-6(1) 3-6 7-5 in Sunday’s first reverse singles rubber.
The twin wins left the top-seeded Italians with an unassailable 3-1 advantage in the best-of-five-rubber hardcourt tie.
Groth had scored a stirring 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 comeback win over Schiavone in her Cup debut for Australia on Saturday, but was unable to reproduce such heroics with the tie on the line.
A title winner in Hobart last month, Groth was broken five times in going down in just 65 minutes.
Heading into a French Open final rematch with Stosur, Schiavone had spent a total of nine hours, 20 minutes on court in her three previous matches over the past fortnight – including a record-setting four, hour-44-minute Australian Open win over Svetlana Kuznetsova.
But all heart, Schiavone staved off an incredible 12 break points and broke Stosur’s serve for the one and only time in the very last game of the match to give Italy a vital edge.
Stosur saved three match points in the 10th game of the deciding set and another with an ace in the 12th game before finally succumbing after two hours and 33 tension-filled minutes.
After an opening set of the highest quality from both combatants, Stosur played a horrible tiebreaker to gift Schiavone the advantage in the match.
Her footwork non-existent, Stosur committed seven unforced errors in the breaker before tossing her racquet in disgust at the changeover.
But she quickly regrouped to achieve the first break of the match in the fourth game of the second set.
Having failed to convert seven previous break-point chances, Stosur swatted a forehand return winner on her eighth opportunity to forge a 3-1 advantage.
And unlike in the first two sets of her 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-4 loss to Flavia Pennetta on Saturday, Stosur was able to serve out the second set against Schiavone in what appeared a much-needed confidence booster for the Roland Garros runner-up.
Alas, Stosur grew more and more frustrated as over and over she squandered break-point chances in the deciding set.
Schiavone finally put Stosur out of her misery when the Australian netted a forehand on the Italian’s fifth match point.
“It’s obviously very disappointing to come here and lose two matches, especially when they’re so tight like that,” Stosur said.
Australia now faces a play-off in April to retain its privileged place in the eight-nation World Group. The team will find out next week who they will face.
Playing the last match of her 25-year pro career, Rennae Stubbs with Anastasia Rodionova blew two second-set match points in a 2-6 7-6(1) 6-4 loss to Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani in the dead doubles rubber.
After six years toiling away in regional qualifying, Australia will be desperate to retain its World Group status and Pennetta, for one, expects to see Stosur and company challenging again in 2012.
“Of course they deserve to be there. I think they are really strong,” Pennetta said.