Fed Cup: Maria Sharapova puts Russia in charge, Italy, Australia lead too
Maria Sharapova defeated Urszula Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 as Russia took a 2-0 lead over Poland in the Fed Cup World Group Saturday with the superstar taking a first step towards the Rio Olympics.
Svetlana Kuznetsova earlier saw off Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the tie at Krakow as four-time champions Russia edged closer towards the semi-finals.
French Open champion Sharapova is playing just her fourth Fed Cup tie since her 2008 debut but in order to make the Olympics next year all players have to make themselves available for the annual team tournament.
The world number two`s win was also a perfect tonic coming a week after her defeat to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final.
Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, had already beaten the elder Radwanska sister in 10 of their 14 meetings.
Kuznetsova, playing her 17th Fed Cup tie, took victory with an ace on her first match point after two hours and 17 minutes.
Sunday`s opening match will be between Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska with the Pole having to win to keep the tie alive.
Sharapova holds an 11-2 advantage in meetings between the two and has not lost to Radwanska since the Miami final in 2012.
In Genoa, 2013 champions Italy lead France 2-0.
Sara Errani defeated Caroline Garcia 7-6 (7/2), 7-5 to give Italy the lead.
Camila Giorgi, the world number 31, then made it 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alize Cornet, ranked 19th.
With their four Fed Cup crowns (2006, 2009, 2010, 2013), Italy, who are unbeaten at home since 2008, are firm favourites to make the semi-finals.
In Stuttgart, Australia got off to a good start against Germany as Jarmila Gajdosova dug deep to come from behind and beat Angelique Kerber.
The 27-year-old Gajdosova bounced back to claim a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Germany`s top player Angelique Kerber, ranked 10th in the world.
Slovakia-born Gajdosova, ranked 54th, took advantage of the German enduring an off day and needed just an hour, 49 minutes to put Australia 1-0 up against the 2014 finalists.
Australia captain Alicia Molik made a surprise call for the indoor hard court first-round tie by picking Gajdosova over higher-ranked Casey Dellacqua to join Sam Stosur in the opening singles.
But Gajdosova, whose ranking had plummeted in 2013 after battling a debilitating illness, repaid the faith with an assured display.
In Saturday`s second singles rubber, 2011 US Open winner Stosur faces Andrea Petkovic.
The winners of the tie will face either Russia or Poland for a place in the final.
Italy or France will face either champions Czech Republic or Canada, who are meeting in Quebec, in the semi-finals.