Schiavone heroics send Italy to final
Francesca Schiavone propelled Italy into another Fed Cup final yesterday after winning her singles and doubles matches to give the holders a 3-2 win over France.
The world number 31, who convincingly beat Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday, produced another battling display to edge past Tatiana Golovin 6-4 2-6 7-5 and square the semi-final at 2-2.
In a late switch for Mara Santangelo, Schiavone then summoned up the energy to partner Roberta Vinci to a 4-6 6-1 6-2 win over France's Nathalie Dechy and Severine Bremond in the decisive doubles.
Italy, who beat Belgium in last year's final, will face the United States or Russia in September's showpiece with France missing out on what would have been a fourth final in five years.
Schiavone was on a one-woman mission to defeat the French but during the first set of the doubles her tenacity got the better of her as she called for balls that were more suited for Vinci.
Yet despite Schiavone's exertions this weekend it was the French pair who began to tire in the heat and the home team stormed to victory backed by some noisy support at the isolated clay court on Italy's south coast.
Just a few hours earlier, Schiavone had raced to a first set lead in the fourth singles rubber against Golovin.
But three double faults in the fourth game of the second set gave Golovin a break and although the Italian hit back straight away, she lost her serve twice more to help the French number three level the match without playing well.
The deciding set also see-sawed before the 27-year-old Schiavone found some extra reserves to keep the holders in the hunt.
Mauresmo overcame Santangelo 6-7 6-0 6-4 in the first match of the day to give France a 2-1 lead.
The world number six suffered a Bastille Day bashing on Saturday when she went down 7-5 6-3 to Schiavone and she again showed her vulnerability on clay before pulling through.
Latest result: United States vs Russia 2-2.