The Russian Fed Cup team cruised into another final today, defeating defending champion Italy 5-0. The Italian team has been dismantled, with both Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta not playing, and championship doubles players Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci taking over in singles. (Errani lost to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two tie-break sets; Vinci and Pavlyuchenkova will meet in the first round in Stuttgart next week.)
It wasn't such an easy task for Russia's upcoming opponent in the final, however. The Czech Republic had to go to a deciding doubles rubber before defeating Belgium 3-2.
The two teams went into today's competition tied at 1-1. Petra Kvitova defeated Yanina Wickmayer 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, but Czech team member Barbora Zahlavova Strycova lost to Kirsten Flipkens. Flipkens (rocking some colorful Belgian flag sunglasses) played quite well, but she got some help from her opponent, who generally looked uncomfortable throughout the match.
With her 6-2, 6-3 victory over Zahlavova Strycova, Flipkens teamed with Wickmayer to play Zahlavova Strycova and Benesova. The highly-ranked Czech team had the advantage, since Wickmayer and Flipkens had never before played together. Also, Wickmayer looked lost at the net most of the time. The Czech team took the first set 6-4, then, in the second set, there were a series of breaks which left the Czech team serving for the match at 5-4. Holding at love, Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova took their team to the 2011 Fed Cup final.
The World Group play-off between the Slovak Republic and Serbia took a strange turn when Ana Ivanovic had to retire against Dominika Cibulkova because of an abdominal injury (she had this injury earlier in the season). Cibulkova won the first set 6-4, and Ivanovic retired at 3-3 in the second set. Jelena Jankovic then defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and the tie went to a deciding doubles rubber. Once again, there was a twist. The team of Hantuchova and Magdalena Rybarikova won the first set 6-2, and appeared to be on their way to a relatively easy straight-set win. However, Jelena Jankovic and Aleksandra Krunic staged a comeback, taking the second set 7-5. The Serbian team went on to win the third set 9-7, and Serbia now returns to the World Group.
In the World Group play-offs, Ukraine (without the Bondarenko sisters) defeatd Australia. Sam Stosur did not play for Australia, but Jarmila Groth did. Groth won both of her singles rubbers, Anastasia Rodionova lost both of her singles rubbers, and--in yet another surprise ending--Groth and Rodionova lost the doubles rubber to Olga Savchuk and Lesia Tsurenko.
Complete results for Fed Cup semifinals, World Group and World Group II play-offs:
Russia def. Italy, 5-0
Czech Republic def. Belgium, 3-2
World Group play-offs
Germany def. USA, 5-0
Spain def. France, 4-1
Serbia def. Slovak Republic, 3-2
Ukraine def. Australia, 3-2
World Group II play-offs
Belarus def. Estonia, 5-0
Slovenia def. Canada, 3-2
Switzerland def. Sweden, 4-1
Japan vs. Argentina postponed until July