Roberta Vinci kept Italy alive in its Fed Cup quarterfinal against the United States with a singles win, then teamed up with Sara Errani for a doubles victory Sunday to send the host nation into the semifinals.
Varvara Lepchenko beat Vinci in Saturday's second opening singles match to even the best-of-five tie at a win apiece for the United States. Lepchenko then gave the Americans a surprising 2-1 edge with a 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Errani in the first reverse singles match Sunday.
Vinci, however, bounced back from Saturday's loss with everything on the line Sunday and claimed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Jamie Hampton to force a fifth and deciding doubles rubber.
The Italians quickly ditched the scheduled doubles pairing of Nastassja Burnett and Karin Knapp, putting the outcome in the hands of Vinci and Errani. Last month's Australian Open doubles champs did not disappoint the home crowd, rolling past the American duo of Lepchenko and Liezel Huber in a 6-2, 6-2 pounding.
Vinci has now been part of 18 Fed Cup doubles wins without tasting defeat. Her heroics Sunday vaulted Italy into the semifinals against the defending champion Czech Republic, which advanced this weekend with a 4-0 victory over Australia.
Italy lost to the Czechs in last year's semifinals and will try to avenge that defeat in April at home. The Italians have won the Fed Cup three times, first in 2006 followed by consecutive titles in 2009 and '10. The last two crowns came at the expense of the United States in each year's final.
The Americans had won the first nine Fed Cup meetings against Italy prior to dropping those two finals. This was the first meeting since 2010.
Lepchenko was the star for this year's young American team, winning each of her singles matches this weekend. The U.S. squad went into Rimini's 105 Stadium without its top talent, as Serena Williams and Venus Williams both opted out of playing, as did up-and-comer Sloane Stephens.