MOSCOW -- Anna Chakvetadze put Russia into the Fed Cup semifinals yesterday by defeating Yan Zi of China 6-1, 6-2 to give the defending champions an unassailable 3-0 lead.
On Saturday the world No 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova put Russia ahead by beating Yan in straight sets 6-2, 6-4, while Australian Open semifinalist Elena Dementieva made it 2-0 after dismissing Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-0.
Russia's Anna Chakvetadze hits a return against China's Zi Yan during their Fed Cup first round tennis match in Moscow, February 8, 2009. [Agencies]
Chakvetadze, currently 19th in the WTA rankings, clinched victory in one hour seven minutes to record her third win over Yan in four head-to-head meetings.
"I was a bit nervous as it was very important for me to win today to support my teammates' successes on Saturday," Chakvetadze said. "I also had problems with my serve."
"But everything went all right in the end and I'm happy with that."
The 21-year-old Russian opened confidently breaking her opponent twice for a commanding 4-0 advantage before the 24-year-old Yan got on the board.
Chakvetadze grabbed another break in the seventh game to take the opening set in 29 minutes.
In the second set the players traded breaks early on but Chakvetadze still looked the more precise and confident even though she collected 10 double faults in the match.
She produced two more breaks of serve to win the match on her first matchpoint ensuring Russia qualified for the last four of the Fed Cup.
The Chinese effort was hampered by the absence of their number one player Zheng Jie due to a wrist injury she suffered in an Australian Open fourth round clash with Kuznetsova last month.
China's Yan Zi hits a return against Russia's Anna Chakvetadze during their Fed Cup first round tennis match in Moscow February 8, 2009. [Agencies]
The Russians are targeting their fifth Fed Cup title in six years.
On Saturday, a livid French team were preparing to launch an official protest after Italy grabbed a 2-0 lead on the opening day of their Fed Cup first round tie.
In Orleans, France, a hot-headed Flavia Pennetta survived a moment of madness and a match point before downing Amelie Mauresmo 2-6 7-6 6-4 and Francesca Schiavone made it 2-0 to Italy after running down Alize Cornet 6-1 2-6 8-6.
Russia's Anna Chakvetadze celebrates her victory over China's Yan Zi during their Fed Cup first round tennis match in Moscow February 8, 2009. [Agencies]
France captain Nicolas Escude said the hosts would object to Pennetta's win since the Italian made an obscene gesture towards the umpire when Mauresmo earned a match point at 7-6 in the second set tiebreak thanks to an overrule.
"We have prepared a letter for the supervisor to have the result of the match revised," Escude told reporters.
Mauresmo appeared to be heading for a straightforward victory when Pennetta hit out at the umpire.
She reacted angrily after the official overruled a backhand passing shot by the Italian that had initially been called in.
"I lost control of myself. It's the first time it happened to me," said Pennetta, who was fined $2,000.
Mauresmo squandered the match point with a double fault and allowed the Italian to capitalize on her slip-up.
The Frenchwoman slammed the umpire for handing Pennetta only a verbal warning for the incident.
"She should have been kicked out of the court," Mauresmo said.
"When (Zinedine) Zidane headbutts (Marco) Materazzi (in the 2006 World Cup soccer final) he's kicked out. It's crystal clear. To me (this decision) is unacceptable.
"I lost my rhythm because we had to wait (for play to resume) but I'm not looking for excuses."
The winner of the tie will face Russia in the semifinals.