Dementieva helps out depleted Russian squad

Updated: April 23, 2005, 3:47 PM ET news services

BRINDISI, Italy -- Elena Dementieva brought champions Russia level 1-1 with Italy after the opening day of their Fed Cup tie on Saturday when the world No. 5 won 6-4, 6-3 against Tathiana Garbin.

Playing in the Fed Cup for the first time since 2003 in a weakened Russian team, Dementieva was always in control on the red clay at Puglia, winning eight of her 11 break points.

Italy had taken a 1-0 lead in the World Group One tie after Francesca Schiavone beat Dinara Safina 7-5, 6-3.

The Russian squad, which won the competition for the first time last year, is without French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova and U.S. Open title holder Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Schiavone is leading Italy's challenge in the World Group One tie after their top-ranked woman Silvia Farina-Elia retired from Fed Cup duty and Falvia Penetta was forced out by injury.

In an enthralling opening match Safina, the sister of Marat Safin making her Fed Cup debut, showed great promise with excellent power play in the first set. But the 18-year-old made errors at vital moments.

Safina converted just one of her 12 break points and did not produce a single ace.

"It certainly wasn't as easy as it might have looked from the stands," Schiavone said. "I was able to put her under pressure though, and I served well. The match tomorrow should be really entertaining because I am very motivated for it now."

On Sunday Schiavone takes on Dementieva in what should be the match of the tie while Garbin and Safina face off in the fourth singles match.

The doubles features Garbin and Schiavone for Italy, while Elena Bovina steps in to partner Dementieva for the Russians.

France 1, Austria 1
VIENNA, Austria -- Virginie Razzano, a last-minute replacement for the injured Amelie Mauresmo, defeated Tamira Paszek to give France a 1-1 tie against Austria after the first day of their first-round Fed Cup world group clash.

Razzano's win came after Yvonne Meusburger had given Austria a surprise lead Saturday by defeating 15th-ranked Nathalie Dechy in straight sets. Meusburger won 7-6 (3), 6-2 in a match that lasted almost two hours.

Meusburger, ranked 131st in the world, is leading the Austrian team after the retirement of Barbara Schett and an injury to Barbara Schwartz.

Razzano won 6-3, 6-3 against the 14-year-old Paszek. Mauresmo pulled out of that match because of an abdominal strain.

On Sunday, the reverse singles will be followed by the doubles, in which Meusburger will team with Sandra Klemenschits to play France's Mary Pierce and Razzano.

The French were Fed Cup finalists the past two years and have never lost to Austria in four previous Fed Cup encounters.

Spain leads Argentina 2-0
JEREZ, Spain -- Nuria Llagostera Vives and Anabel Medina Garrigues gave host Spain a 2-0 lead over Argentina Saturday in the first-round Fed Cup world group series.

Llagostera Vives and Medina Garrigues each won by the same scores -- 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 -- against Argentina's Gisela Dulko and Maria-Emilia Salerni.

Llagostera Vives, ranked 63rd, made a solid international debut by beating the 39th-ranked Dulko.

Despite knee trouble, 43rd-ranked Medina Garrigues used her experience to wear down No. 144 Salerni, breaking her serve to go up 5-3 in the third set.

Spanish captain Miguel Margets said he felt good heading into Sunday's matches.

"We have three chances to win tomorrow and it would indeed be great if we took the first opportunity," he said.