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Fed Cup: Sharapova rescues Russia

February 03, 2008 09:59 IST

Maria Sharapova came to Russia's rescue on her Fed Cup debut to pull the holders level at 1-1 in their world group first-round tie against Israel on Saturday.

After several aborted attempts in 2007, the Florida-based Sharapova finally donned her native Russia's red and white strip on Saturday to roll over Israel's Tzipi Obziler 6-0, 6-4.

The Australian Open champion's win momentarily silenced the capacity 5,000 crowd, who had earlier roared on Israeli number one Shahar Peer to a memorable 0-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Dinara Safina to give the home team an unexpected lead in the tie.

The United States' hopes of ending their longest title drought were dented after Lindsay Davenport's run of 19 consecutive victories in Fed Cup singles matches was snapped by a little-known German teenager.

Sabine Lisicki, ranked 130th, stunned former world number one Davenport 6-1, 7-5 to give Germany a shock lead over the US, winners a record 17 times but seeking their first title since 2000, in La Jolla, California.

"Lindsay is such a great champion and I just beat her," a beaming Lisicki said courtside. "I am really excited."

Ashley Harkleroad restored order when she overwhelmed Tatjana Malek 6-1, 6-3 to level the contest at 1-1.

A leaking roof at Naples' indoor PalaVesuvio arena failed to distract Spain from taking a surprise 2-0 lead over last year's finalists Italy, while China punished France for turning up with a second-string team in Beijing to also open up a 2-0 advantage.

Having been held up for almost an hour midway through the third set after rainwater dripped from the roof on to the court, world number 136 Nuria Llagostera Vives doused Italy's hopes of an early lead with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win over Francesca Schiavone.


Spain's top player, Anabel Medina Garrigues, completed a miserable day for the hosts by swatting aside Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-3.

"I made three or four errors at important times and it cost me the match," Italian number one Schiavone told reporters. "At the break I was thinking I could make a change and it would favour me but instead she played well."

Twice former champions France seem headed for an early exit after former world number one Amelie Mauresmo and last year's Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli refused to make the trip to China.

The duo were sorely missed after Li Na showed little mercy to tournament debutant Alize Cornet during a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Chinese number two Peng Shuai upset Virginie Razzano 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to leave the home team needing to win only one of Sunday's three rubbers to secure their place in the semi-finals.

"The match is not finished for us... I still think we can win three ties tomorrow," defiant French captain Georges Goven said.

On the outskirts of Tel Aviv, world number 17 Peer was initially overcome by the occasion of playing in front of her home fans for the first time and looked to be heading for an embarrassing defeat.

But just when it seemed Safina could barely put a foot wrong with her baseline tactics, Peer was inspired by the roaring crowd packed into the Israel Tennis Centre and unleashed her full repertoire of shots to carve out the win.

"This was perhaps my sweetest comeback, I saw the crowd who had all come to watch us and I know that I could not let them down," Peer said.

Sharapova blocked out the deafening cheers for Obziler to keep up her unbeaten run in 2008.

"I love it... it actually gives me energy, as an athlete this is what I play for and it drives me to do better," the 20-year-old said.

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