Italy celebrate Fed Cup after Pennetta win
Rome: Fed Cup specialists Italy won the cherished women`s tennis team trophy for a third time in five years on Sunday by swatting hosts the United States 3-1.
Italy`s second singles player Flavia Pennetta earned the winning point in the best-of-five match final by crushing American teenager Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2.
Melanie Oudin had earlier kept the US alive with a 6-3, 6-1 upset of taly`s Francesca Schiavone, the world number seven, at the San Diego Sports Arena.
But although Pennetta failed to hold serve in the first game of her match, she had little trouble from that point on, brushing aside Fed Cup debutant Vandeweghe in only 80 minutes to secure the trophy for her country.
The Italian world number 23 broke her 114th-ranked opponent three times in the opening set and twice in the second before wrapping up victory when a Vandeweghe backhand service return sailed long.
Pennetta raised her arms into the air and was warmly congratulated by Italy captain captain Corrado Barazzutti before she ran across to join her team mates in a group hug.
"It`s very special for me, for the team and for everybody," Pennetta said courtside, while nodding her head in the direction of the Italian supporters in the stands.
She later told reporters she had been nervous but by no means panic-stricken going into her match against Vandeweghe following Schiavone`s unexpected defeat.
"Of course, I was thinking Francesca can take that point and maybe everything would then finish fast," Pennetta said. "But Melanie played unbelievable today, she was on fire. It was not easy to stop her."
Barazzutti showered his team with praise after a successive victory over the US in the final, following the 4-0 whitewash of the Americans in Reggio Calabria last year.
"In five years, we have won three Fed Cups and this is a fantastic team," he said. "I`m a very lucky captain. I am proud of them but it`s easy to be captain of this team because they are very strong."
Pennetta`s demolition job against an error-prone Vandeweghe spared Italian blushes after Oudin`s remarkable display in the first match of the day.
With Italy leading 2-0 overnight and needing just one more win to clinch the trophy, Oudin outplayed the French Open champion with a solid and often inspired performance from the baseline.
The 19-year-old broke Schiavone four times in a mistake-ridden opening set and twice in the second to complete victory in one hour 14 minutes.
Oudin sealed her dazzling win with an ace, which was challenged by Schiavone before it was confirmed by Hawkeye, to send the sparse crowd into a frenzy of celebration.
"This is the best I have played in a long time," a wide-eyed Oudin said after engaging the Italian in protracted rallies and continually attacking her opponent`s backhand.
"I felt confident out there. I really played with no fear. I had a good game plan going in. I kept it going from start to finish and didn`t let her get back in the match."
Oudin was a late change to the US lineup on Sunday, replacing Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who lost her opening singles to Pennetta 7-6, 6-2 on Saturday after suffering leg cramps and a flu virus.
With the trophy having been secured, the concluding doubles scheduled to pit Americans Liezel Huber and Oudin against Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci was scrapped.