Roberta Vinci gave Italy a precious lead in the Fed Cup final on Saturday with a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 victory over Russian Alexandra Panova. Vinci, 30, had the partisan crowd on their feet after racing to a 4-0 lead on the slow red clay of the Cagliari tennis club.

However, the 30-year-old Italian, ranked 13th in the world, was stunned by an impressive fightback which allowed her younger opponent to take the first set 7-5.

Vinci was trailing 5-3 in the second set, appearing to lack confidence, but was helped enormously when Panova committed a series of unforced errors.

Vinci served to reduce the arrears to 5-4 and dug deep in the next game, forcing more errors from the Russian to break serve and draw level before gaining momentum and finally taking the second set 7-5.

Spirited fightback

In the deciding set, Vinci launched another spirited fightback, drawing level at 5-5 and took the next game to love as the Russian committed more unforced errors.

Sensing the danger, Panova dug deep on serve to overturn a love to 30 deficit in the 12th game to pull level at 6-6.

However, Vinci took a 7-6 lead when she lobbed Panova after she had made a naive dash to the net before sealing the match when Panova’s nerves got the better of her in the final game.

The result: Italy 1 leads Russia 0 (Roberta Vinci bt Alexandra Panova 5-7, 7-5, 8-6). — AFP

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