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Kuznetsova puts Russia in command

sports Updated: Sep 15, 2007 20:16 IST

AFP
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Word number two Svetlana Kuznetsova gave Russia a commanding 2-0 lead after the first day of the Fed Cup final tie, beating Mara Santangelo of Italy in straight sets in Moscow on Saturday.

Kuznetsova gave her 26-year-old opponent a 57-minute masterclass which ended in a commanding 6-1, 6-2 win -- her fourth win over Santangelo, who is 34th in the WTA rankings, in as many meetings.

The 22-year-old Russian, who resides in Monte Carlo, was in complete control from the start breaking her rival's serve twice for a one-set lead in 24 minutes.

In the second set Kuznetsova continued her domination, producing two more breaks before wrapping up victory at the 6,500-seat Luzhniki Sports Arena.

"I tried to keep myself focussed from the start and to give Mara no chances for a break," Kuznetsova said.

"I'm completely satisfied with my performance today and hope to perform even better tomorrow."

Earlier on Saturday Anna Chakvetadze put Russia into the lead beating Francesca Schiavone in the opening rubber 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours 15 minutes to gain her third win in four head-to-head meetings with the Italian.

"The first match of the tie is always very important and I'm happy to win it and give my side the point that we all needed so much," Chakvetadze said.

"It was so much up and down today and now I feel completely exhausted," she added.

"When it was 3-0 in Francesca's favour in the third set I started to relax a bit more because I had nothing to lose. I helped me a lot, and I managed to get back into my game and finally win the match."

Chakvetadze looked slightly rusty from the start allowing Schiavone to break early for a 2-0 lead. But the Moscow resident soon found her composure and broke back twice to take the opening set in 39 minutes.

The pair traded breaks throughout the second set but a more precise Schiavone, currently 25th in the WTA rankings, pulled the scores level at one set all after one hour 25 minutes on court.

The 27-year-old Italian broke early in the deciding set for a comfortable 3-0 lead, but Chakvetadze broke back in the fifth game to level at three games all.

Schiavone lost her nerve in the ninth game, producing a series of unforced errors which allowed Chakvetadze to break again minutes before she won the set and the match.

After the match Schiavone blamed her poor service game for the defeat.

"I will practice. I have to serve much better," she said.

Sunday's schedule comprises reversed singles, followed by the doubles rubbers.