Moscow: Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to put Russia level at 1-1 with Serbia after the opening singles in their Fed Cup semi-final on Saturday. Jelena Jankovic won the first point for Serbia by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-3.
After trading sets, Kuznetsova broke Ivanovic in the first game of the decisive set and it turned out to be enough to win the match. She closed it out on her first match point with a backhand pass.
"I played well in the first and third sets," Kuznetsova said. "But I lost concentration in the second set and it's normal since I haven't played long rallies since Miami. And I spin a lot today and played forehands and cut her rhythm."
Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, praised Kuznetsova, the 2009 French winner.
"She was serving really well today, she was aiming very precise," Ivanovic said. "And also with the ground strokes, she was very aggressive from the baseline. I feel I had chances and was in it but some of the short balls that I missed today cost me the match."
Serbia have reached the semi-finals for the first time and, with the two former No. 1-ranked players, are considered the favorites.
Russia, four-time champions, have beaten Serbia in all three of their previous meetings, but are without their two top players: Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva.
Jankovic rallied from a break down twice in the first set, saving six break points in the seventh game and turning the match her way with breaks in the eighth and tenth games.
"I was very nervous in the beginning. I really wanted to win this match," Jankovic said. "I think it's very important to win the first point " it gives confidence to the second player on our team to play better."
After an exchange of breaks early in the second set, Jankovic won four consecutive games to lead 5-1. But serving for the match, she was broken at love and Pavlyuchenkova narrowed the gap to 5-3.
"Nastya (Pavlyuchenkova) played those two good games, she made some lines, she returned really well on my serve, so it was 5-2 and she had a good service game," Jankovic said. "And then at 5-3 I was serving for the match and I hit one long and she had an advantage to win the game and make it 5-4, but I stayed strong and managed to win the game and finish the match."
The Russian netted her return on match point.
"I served really bad today," said Pavlyuchenkova, who opened strongly but committed 11 double faults in the match. "She (Jankovic) was more relaxed in the second set and played more aggressive. She didn't allow me to play my tennis."
In Sunday's reverse singles, Pavlyuchenkova will meet Ivanovic, while Kuznetsova will play Jankovic. In the doubles, the Russian pair of Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina will face Bojana Janovski and Aleksandra Krunic.
The winner will play defending champions Czech Republic or Italy in the final on November 3-4.