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France livid over Italy row

February 08, 2009 14:08 IST

A livid French team were preparing to launch an official protest after Italy grabbed a 2-0 lead on the opening day of their Fed Cup first round tie on Saturday.

A chilly Moscow proved an inhospitable place for China as they went 2-0 down to champions Russia.

In Orleans, France, a hot-headed Flavia Pennetta survived a moment of madness and a match point before downing Amelie Mauresmo 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 and Francesca Schiavone made it 2-0 to Italy after running down Alize Cornet 6-1, 2-6 8-6.

France captain Nicolas Escude said the hosts would object to Pennetta's win since the Italian made an obscene gesture towards the umpire when Mauresmo earned a match point at 7-6 in the second set tiebreak thanks to an overrule.

"We have prepared a letter for the supervisor to have the result of the match revised," Escude told reporters.

Mauresmo appeared to be heading for a straightforward victory when Pennetta hit out at the umpire.

She reacted angrily after the official overruled a backhand passing shot by the Italian that had initially been called in.

"I lost control of myself. It's the first time it happened to me," said Pennetta, who was fined US $2,000.

Mauresmo squandered the match point with a double fault and allowed the Italian to capitalise on her slip-up.

The Frenchwoman slammed the umpire for handing Pennetta only a verbal warning for the incident.

"She should have been kicked out of the court," Mauresmo said.

"When [Zinedine] Zidane headbutts [Marco] Materazzi [in the 2006 World Cup soccer final] he's kicked out. It's crystal clear. To me [this decision] is unacceptable.

"I lost my rhythm because we had to wait [for play to resume] but I'm not looking for excuses."


Escude added: "It's a shame to see such a gesture and to hear such words in a sports arena. To me it's a straight red card [disqualification]. There is no need for a warning or a penalty point."

The winner of the tie will face Russia or China in the semi-finals.

Russia, targetting a fifth title in six years, proved too strong for an understrength Chinese team who were missing injured number one Zheng Jie.

Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame a scrappy performance in the second set to beat Yan Zi 6-2, 6-4 before Elena Dementieva thumped Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-0.

Before the tie Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev was concerned about how his top players would adjust to the sub-zero temperatures in Moscow having toiled in over 40 degrees Celsius at the Australian Open last week.

But it was China who failed to come to grips with the conditions even though the tie was being played on an indoor hardcourt arena.

"It was not warm [enough]," said Yan after letting slip a 4-1 lead in the second set against Kuznetsova.

China now face an uphill task as they need to win all three rubbers on Sunday to pull off an unlikely upset.

Zheng failed to regain her fitness after injuring her left wrist during the Australian Open.

In other contests, Argentina pulled level at 1-1 with the United States when Gisela Dulko beat 17-year-old Melanie Oudin 6-2, 7-5. Jill Craybas had put the 17 times champions ahead o home soil in Arizona with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Betina Jozami.

Australian Open champion Serena Williams and her sister Venus have opted out of the tie. Spain were level at 1-1 with the Czech Republic.

Petra Kvitova handed the Czechs an unexpected 1-0 lead with a 6-4, 6-4 win over in-form Carla Suarez Navarro but Nuria Llagostera Vives kept the Spaniards in the hunt by producing a stirring fightback to beat Iveta Benesova 1-6, 6-1, 6-4.

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