CAGLIARI, Italy (AP) Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani prevailed in the opening singles for a 2-0 lead Saturday against an understrength Russia and put Italy on the brink of a fourth Fed Cup title.
Vinci, the winner of nine WTA singles titles, overcame a challenge from Alexandra Panova, who has reached only one WTA final. Vinci rallied from 5-2 down in the second set and saved four match points to win 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 in 3 hours, 13 minutes.
"It was an incredible match, was a tough match," Vinci said. "At the end I had a little bit of cramp, but I won a great match. There were a lot of ups and downs, and I tried to stay focused on every single point."
Errani, playing in her second Fed Cup final, overcame newcomer Irina Khromacheva 6-1, 6-4.
"I dropped a bit in the second, I was very tired, maybe from Vinci's match," Errani said. "There's a lot of tension. It's never easy to play in Fed Cup, especially when you're the favorite like this."
Russia has won the tournament four times in the past 10 years. But the Russians are without any of its top players, with some injured and others playing in the season-ending Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria.
Italy needs one more victory on Sunday to add to its Fed Cup titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
The reverse singles are Sunday with Errani taking on Panova and Vinci facing Khromacheva.
Vinci and Errani are the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the world. But Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti has chosen Flavia Pennetta - who has been a part of three Fed Cup-winning teams - and Knapp to face Kleybanova and Gasparyan.