Japan rallies past Slovenia in opener


Kimiko Date-Krumm and Ayumi Morita both came back from a set down to win Saturday as Japan took a 2-0 lead over Slovenia in the first round of the Fed Cup’s World Group II.

Veteran Date-Krumm defeated Polona Hercog 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and Morita followed with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 17-year-old Nastja Kolar at Bourbon Beans Dome.

Japan needs one more win, out of the reverse singles and doubles matches scheduled for Sunday, to advance to a promotion/relegation playoff from April 21-22 against a losing team in the first round of the top-tier World Group.

“I think I was able to do my job as the team’s second-highest ranked player playing the opening match (against the opposing team’s No. 1 player),” Date-Krumm, ranked 78th in the world, said after beating 36th-ranked Hercog.

“We want to be a strong team, and we want to seize the chance to join the top-tier group,” the 41-year-old added.

In her first Fed Cup appearance in two years, Date-Krumm broke Hercog to go up 5-4 in the second set and served out to level the match at a set apiece.

She went on to control the final set with a break in the third game.

Morita, ranked 64th, said, “In the first set, I kind of waited to see how she would play. In my reverse singles match, I’ll try to play well from the outset.”

Sharapova leads Russia


Three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova will play Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the opening singles match Saturday when Russia hosts Spain in the first round of the Fed Cup.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will face Carla Suarez Navarro in the second match.

“I’m satisfied with the draw,” Sharapova said. “I wanted to play in the first match and I’m happy I will.”

It will be Sharapova’s third appearance for Russia. The Australian Open runnerup won both her singles matches against Israel in 2008 but lost in opening singles against France last year.

Russia is the clear favorite to win but Sharapova refused to underestimate the opponent.

“Last season, we were favorites against France at the same stage of the competition but fell 2-0 down after the opening singles,” Sharapova said. “We were lucky to win in the end.”