February 04, 2012

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- Serena Williams beat Olga Govortsova 7-5, 6-0 on Saturday, and the United States swept the first-round singles to take a 2-0 lead over Belarus in the Fed Cup.

Christina McHale won in straight sets in the opening match before Williams put the Americans one win away from advancing in the best-of-five series in World Group II.

Williams won the first three games of the match, then struggled a little before holding serve for a 6-5 lead and breaking Govortsova, who double-faulted while already down love-40.

Govortsova seemed to have nothing left for the second set against Williams, who quickly ended it with her overpowering strokes.

McHale gave the Americans a 1-0 lead with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Anastasiya Yakimova.

Sharapova puts Russia atop Spain

MOSCOW (AP) -- Maria Sharapova routed Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-1 in the opening singles to give Russia a 1-0 lead over Spain in their Fed Cup first-round series.

Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova was to play against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro in the second singles match Saturday.

After an early exchange of breaks, Sharapova won four consecutive games in the first set and four more in the second. She closed the match on her first match point with a forehand that Fed Cup debutante Soler-Espinosa failed to return.

"I was a bit nervous before the beginning of the match as I failed to show my best tennis in my previous Fed Cup appearance in Moscow," Sharapova said.

Sharapova is playing for Russia for the third time. The three-time Grand Slam champion won both her singles matches against Israel in 2008. She lost in opening singles against France last year.

"It was very important to stay concentrated, to believe and prove that my tennis is better and to win the match. Luckily, I managed to do all that and now I'm really satisfied with my performance."

The winner of the series will play Belgium or Serbia in the semifinals on April 21-22.

Czech Republic leads Germany

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- Iveta Benesova gave the Czech Republic a perfect start to the defense of its Fed Cup title, rallying from a set down to beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 Saturday in the opening match of their first-round series.

Germany's Julia Goerges was to face Wimbledon champion and second-ranked Petra Kvitova in the second match later Saturday.

The series will be decided Sunday with two reverse singles and a doubles match at Porsche Arena.

Germany's 10th-ranked Andrea Petkovic was ruled out with a lower back injury.

Jankovic, Serbia atop Belgium

CHARLEROI, Belgium (AP) -- Jelena Jankovic beat Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 7-5 Saturday to give Serbia a 1-0 lead over Belgium in the first round of the Fed Cup.

Jankovic is a former No. 1 player, and she showed her experience late in the opening set. She forced a first break of serve against the 176th-ranked Flipkens, and kept the momentum going through the early part of the second to lead 4-2.

However, she let Flipkens back in the match and had to save two set points before pushing through for the straight-set win and Serbia's first point.

In the second singles, 29th-ranked Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium played Bojana Jovanovski, 76 places below her in the rankings.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters sat out the opening round. Serbia is without former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.

Ukraine, Italy split opening singles

BIELLA, Italy (AP) -- Lesia Tsurenko routed 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-2 Saturday, leaving Ukraine tied with Italy after their opening singles matches at the Fed Cup.

Earlier on the indoor red-clay court at the Lauretana Forum, Sara Errani followed her quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open by beating Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-3.

Reverse singles and doubles in the first-round, best-of-five series is Sunday.

The 121st-ranked Tsurenko dominated with a big serve and accurate volleys, while Schiavone lacked her usual aggressiveness and fleet footwork.

Errani broke early in each set and was never really challenged by the 89th-ranked Bondarenko. The 34th-ranked Errani usually plays doubles for Italy, but captain Corrado Barazzutti decided to use her in singles because of her results in Australia and Flavia Pennetta's back injury.

"It's never easy to open in Fed Cup but it was a good match, very quick. She was hitting really hard," said Errani. "For me, Fed Cup is the best thing all year."

Errani was beaten by Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the Australian Open quarters. She also reached the doubles final in Melbourne, pairing with Vinci in a loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva of Russia.

Italy won the Fed Cup in 2006, 2009 and 2010. But in its previous outing, it played without Schiavone and Pennetta and lost to Russia 5-0 in last year's semfinals, ending its winning streak of eight series. Italy has won all three of its series with Ukraine.

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