KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Serena Williams overpowered Ukrainian teenager Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-1 to give the United States a 2-0 lead in the Fed Cup series on Saturday.
In the opening match, American Christina McHale defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
The U.S. needs one victory among the reverse singles and doubles on Sunday to return to the top tier of the Fed Cup group.
Williams is making her first Fed Cup appearance on foreign soil in more than a decade to help gain eligibility for the U.S. team at the London Olympics.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion could seal the U.S. win with a victory over Tsurenko on Sunday.
Williams only faltered once against the 17-year-old Svitolina, who managed to reach 2-2 in the first set after going down an early break.
"It's easier in the Fed Cup, as you have a coach who can help and encourage to stay focused," Williams said about U.S. captain Mary Jo Fernandez.
In Fed Cup semifinal play, the Czech Republic leads Italy 2-0, and Russia and Serbia were tied 1-1. The winners advance to the final.
Williams won four straight games and sealed the first set with an ace. There was a short delay while Williams had her ankle wrapped as a precaution, she said.
The 30-year-old Williams pounced on Svitolina's weak serve in the second set and closed out the match in one hour.
The 19-year-old McHale lost the first game in the opener but won six straight to take the first set.
Tsurenko needed a marathon final game in the second set, converting a sixth break point. McHale took a comfortable 3-0 lead in the third set.
Czech Republic leads Italy 2-0
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) -- The Czech Republic took a 2-0 lead over Italy after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova won the opening singles matches of the Fed Cup semifinal on Saturday.
Safarova defeated Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (3), 6-1 before Kvitova used her attacking play to beat Sara Errani 6-4, 6-3.
The 23rd-ranked Safarova converted her first match point when Schiavone netted a backhand to improve her record over her 12th-ranked opponent to 5-3. Third-ranked Kvitova converted her first match point with a drop shot.
Reverse singles and the doubles are Sunday. The Czechs need to win one match to advance to the final against the winner of the Russia-Serbia series.
Russia, Serbia split singles, tied 1-1
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 Saturday to tie Serbia 1-1 after opening singles in the Fed Cup semifinal.
Jelena Jankovic won the opener for Serbia by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-3.
Serbia has reached the semifinals of the tournament for the first time. Russia, a four-time champion, has beaten Serbia in all three previous meetings. But the team is without two top players: Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva.
In Sunday's reverse singles, Pavlyuchenkova will face Ivanovic, while Kuznetsova will play Jankovic. In the doubles, the Russian pair of Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina will face Bojana Janovski and Aleksandra Krunic.
The winner of the matches will play either defending champion Czech Republic or Italy in the final on Nov. 3-4.