Czechs open big lead over Italy in Fed Cup

Ostrava, Czech Republic ( - Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova were easy winners Saturday as the Czech Republic grabbed a commanding lead over Italy in the Fed Cup semifinals.

Safarova cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sara Errani in the opening singles rubber before Kvitova topped Camila Giorgi in a 6-4, 6-2 triumph. The Czechs need only one point on Sunday to wrap up the best-of-five tie and advance to the final.

This weekend's matchup pits the last five Fed Cup champions. Italy won last year and captured the crown in 2009 and 2010, while the Czechs were back-to- back champs in 2011 and '12.

It's also the third straight year the two powerhouse nations are meeting in the semifinals. The Czechs pulled off a 4-1 triumph two years ago in Ostrava and the Italians were 3-1 winners last year in Palermo. Italy leads the all- time series, 5-4.

The Italians will have to rally from an 0-2 deficit for the first time in their storied Fed Cup history.

Errani will try to get Italy on the board in the first reverse singles match on Sunday against Kvitova. Giorgi and Safarova will then contest the second singles match. The doubles rubber is currently slated to feature Karin Knapp and Roberta Vinci for the visitors against Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Koukalova.

There was little drama on Saturday.

Safarova had her serve broken twice early in the opening match and trailed 3-1, but rallied and won five of the next six games to take the opening set. Errani then held to start the second, but failed to win another game as the Czech wrapped up the match in just 72 minutes.

Kvitova broke serve to start the match and it proved to be the difference in a tight first set as neither player budged again. A Kvitova ace finished the set and she broke to start the second. Another break in the seventh game made it 5-2 and the Czech held in a lengthy final game that featured five deuces.

This weekend's winner will face the Australia-Germany victor in the Fed Cup final in November.