The matchups and home court clearly favored the Italians and Sara Errani gave the hosts the first point with a 6-2, 6-3 thumping of Kateryna Bondarenko. With former French Open champ Francesca Schiavone set for Saturday's second match, it appeared the Italians would have a big edge heading to Sunday.
Enter Lesia Tsurenko.
Ranked 121st in the world, Tsurenko not only drew the Ukrainians even, she completely dominated the 11th-ranked Schiavone in a 6-1, 6-2 rout. Schiavone committed 42 unforced errors and managed a mere 10 winners in the 71-minute dismantling.
Schiavone will have a chance to make amends in the first reverse singles match on Sunday against Bondarenko. Tsurenko and Errani are slated to meet in the second match of the day. The scheduled doubles match will pit Errani and Roberta Vinci against Olga Savchuk and Yuliya Beygelzimer.
Italy has won three of the last six Fed Cup titles, including back-to-back crowns in 2009-10. The Italians are also 3-0 all-time against the Ukraine in Fed Cup play.
This weekend's winner will meet the Czech Republic-Germany victor in April's semifinals.