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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy Never a Threat in Fed Cup Final

APMaria Sharapova, left, Anna Chakvetadze, Elena Vesnina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova waving their flag Sunday after their win at Luzhniki arena.
Russia secured its third Fed Cup title Sunday after Svetlana Kuznetsova rallied to beat Francesca Schiavone 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first reverse singles and gave the hosts an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Italy.

Elena Vesnina then made it 4-0 for Russia, beating Mara Santangelo 6-2, 6-4 in the second reverse singles. The doubles match was canceled.

World No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze and No. 2 Kuznetsova won their opening singles Saturday -- against Schiavone and Santangelo, respectively -- to lift Russia to a comfortable 2-0 lead after the first day of play in the best-of-five finals at Luzhniki arena.

Russia, which won the Fed Cup title in 2004 and 2005, remained unbeaten in four matches against Italy, the surprise 2006 Fed Cup champion.

Maria Sharapova cheered from the bench and joined in the celebration after the win. She was invited by captain Shamil Tarpishchev to practice with the team this week but didn't play because of a lingering shoulder injury.

After trading breaks early in the first set Sunday, Schiavone won three consecutive games to go 1-0 up in the match after 40 minutes.

"She made me play some very inconvenient tennis," said Kuznetsova, who appeared flustered in the first set.

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the Italian quickly faced a double break point. Schiavone saved one of them before the Russian leveled at 5-5 and forced a tiebreaker.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion and runner-up this season, saved two match points in the tiebreaker before serving a powerful winner to prevail 9-7 and stay in the match.

In the decisive third set, Schiavone, ranked 25th, jumped to a 4-1 lead with a break in the fourth game but lost the advantage in the seventh when she double-faulted on her serve and then hit an easy forehand wide.

Kuznetsova leveled 4-4 and went up 5-4, breaking the Italian in the ninth game. But Schiavone showed no signs of surrender, fighting back to make it 5-5.

Kuznetsova made a decisive break in the 11th game, when Schiavone appeared tired and netted two returns and a backhand slice. The Russian ended the two-hour, 44-minute match by capitalizing on her first match point.

"I really wanted to bring the victory, and this time it worked," said Kuznetsova, who lost her two singles matches when Russia beat France in the final in 2004 to win its first title. Since then, Kuznetsova had not played for the national team until this season. She won both her singles to help her country eliminate Spain 5-0 in the semifinals.

Kuznetsova complained that abdominal muscle problems had undermined her serve this weekend, but she served three aces against Schiavone.

The Italian showed an improved serve compared with Saturday, when her first-serve percentage was just over 50.

Vesnina had eight aces against Santangelo. She had been scheduled to play in the doubles match, but was substituted for Chakvetadze at short notice.

"I had like five minutes to warm up and change clothes," Vesnina said. "I was like, 'I don't understand where I am right now.'"

Italy defeated Belgium to win its first Fed Cup title last season.