Fed Cup: Kuznetsova gives Russia 1-0 lead over Germany
SOCHI, Russia (AP) Russia was on the brink of making the Fed Cup final with a 2-0 lead after Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova saved a match point to beat Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Saturday.
Pavlyuchenkova saved the match point in the second set before going on to beat Lisicki 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, after Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Julia Goerges in straight sets in the opening rubber.
Pavlyuchenkova said Lisicki's power caused her problems: ''In the first set I believed I could win but I couldn't find the rhythm because she plays a bit boom-boom.''
Both players had problems on their serve - Pavlyuchenkova racked up 13 double faults but Lisicki's 63 unforced errors proved crucial.
''It was very close and I had a match point but she played a good point on that. I didn't play a good tiebreaker,'' Lisicki said.
The result left Russia needing one win from Sunday's three matches to reach the final and bag a first Fed Cup title since 2008.
With the Czech Republic leading France 2-0 in the other semifinal, there was potential for a rematch of the 2011 final, when the Czechs beat Russia in Moscow.
Kuznetsova won 6-4, 6-4, taking advantage of erratic play by Goerges, who landed just 53 percent of her first serves and made 45 unforced errors against 27 for the Russian.
Kuznetsova, who became Russia's most successful Fed Cup player ever with 27 wins, said she and Goerges struggled with the slippery indoor clay at Sochi's Adler Arena, which was last year's Olympic speedskating venue.
''It was very difficult to move,'' she said. ''Maybe we didn't look like we were moving very comfortably.''
Goerges said she was ''very nervous'' to play the first match, and acknowledged her approach was too aggressive, open to errors when she tried to finish points early.
On Sunday, the reverse singles are followed by a doubles pitting Germany's Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic against Russian duo Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva.
Zvonareva replaced second-ranked Maria Sharapova, who withdrew from the tie on Tuesday with a leg injury.
Germany captain Barbara Rittner said she had ''no regrets'' about her decision to keep her two top-ranked players, Kerber and Petkovic, for Sunday's doubles, and did not say whether she would substitute them into the reverse singles.