MOSCOW, April 21 (R-Sport) – Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina completed Russia's day-long comeback against Slovakia in their Fed Cup semifinal, beating Daniela Hantuchova and Dominika Cibulkova in the doubles rubber in Moscow on Sunday.
Russia, four-time Fed Cup champions, was down 2-0 after Saturday's singles rubbers, but stormed back Sunday with back-to-back singles wins before Makarova and Vesnina sealed the overall victory with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 comeback at Krylatskoe arena.
The pair, sixth and seventh in the WTA doubles rankings, lost the long first set when Hantuchova converted the third break point opportunity of the tenth game with a perfectly-placed drop shot. But the Russians were aggressive in the second, nailing 17 winners. Hantuchova and Cibulkova appeared tired by the third set and were finished off tidily.
The Slovakian pair played singles matches earlier in the day, while Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev went with the fresh Vesnina, her first appearance in the semifinal tie.
“I didn't play as much tennis as other girls but honestly, when I came on court I felt like I had played 10 matches already," said Vesnina, referring to the emotional support she gave her teammates while watching Sunday's rubbers from the bench. "But maybe I was not as tired as the other girls; that helped me to stay focused in key moments."
Hantuchova, meanwhile, called the doubles loss bad luck.
"I think we did very well," she said. "In the first set we played great, and we definitely gave our best. Sometimes you need luck and it was obviously not on our side today."
The doubles tiebreaker was set up earlier Sunday when Makarova, the 24th-ranked singles player in the world, beat the 75th-ranked Hantuchova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
After taking the first set with ease, Makarova struggled in the second, committing 25 unforced errors to Hantuchova's 11. In the tense break set, Hantuchova was leading 4-3 when Makorova slipped on the clay surface at Moscow's Krylatskoe arena, bloodying her knee and requiring medical attention. The rest, it turned out, did Makorava some good as she took the three consecutive games to win the match.
“It was a very tough match, and my fall really shook me up. I got angry and changed my game,” Makarova said. “Today, it got more emotional and it was the best feeling, I think.”
In the final, scheduled for November 2-3, Russia faces the winner of the tie between Italy and the Czech Republic, the reigning champion. Italy leads 2-1 after three rubbers.