I was eager to see the match between Francesca Schiavone and Anna Chakvetadze, thinking their styles would make for an interesting contest. I was right. Schiavone--whose career took a slide this year until she almost single-handedly won the Fed Cup semifinals--had problems with both her serve and her forehand. Chakvetadze had problems of her own, committing the types of unforced errors that characterized her dreadful U.S. Open semifinal match. The momentun swung back and forth in the first Fed Cup final match today, as did the quality. You could look for a few moments and see some brilliant tennis, but then--in the next few moments--you could see some really sloppy stuff.
Chakvetadze took the first set, 6-4, and Schiavone rallied to take the second, 6-4 (though she served for the set at 5-2). Schiavone then went up 3-0 in the third, but an Italian victory was not to be. Chakvetadze got her break back, and in the fifth game, something unusual happened: Schiavone hit a ball down the line, and Chakvetadze somehow got her racquet on it and somehow flipped it just over the net. Schiavone, fearful of touching the net with her racquet, gingerly tried to make her shot, but hit the ball into the net. The press is going on and on about what a disaster this was, but the fact is--the shot was probably harder to make than it looked. At any rate, Chakvetadze took the final set, 6-4.
Chakvetadze looked pretty fragile throughout this match, berating herself for "errors" she did not make (sometimes she just got outplayed by a very creative Schiavone), and even whacking her racquet into the net. She said later that the crowd support helped her, and that what helped her most was encouragement from Maria Sharavpova.
The second match was a straight set win by Svetlana Kuznetsova over Mara Santangelo, 6-1, 6-2.
Russia needs only one more win to re-claim the Fed Cup from Italy, the defending champion.