French comeback vs Italy highlights 1st round of Fed Cup; Russia, Germany, Czechs also win

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France's comeback from 2-0 down to beat host Italy 3-2 highlighted Sunday's first-round play in the Fed Cup, with Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic also advancing to the semifinals.

Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic stunned Italy by first winning their respective singles matches before teaming up to rout top-ranked doubles pair Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 6-1, 6-2 to complete the comeback.

"I'm so proud of the girls," France captain Amelie Mauresmo said. "They were really able to put some amazing stuff out there on the court."

Mauresmo surprisingly benched French No. 1 Alize Cornet for the opening reverse singles, replacing her with Mladenovic who beat Errani 6-4, 6-3 to get France back into the series. Garcia then recovered from a set down to defeat Camila Giorgi 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

The other first-round matchups had far less drama.

Russia completed its sweep of Poland as Maria Sharapova gave it a decisive 3-0 lead with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Agnieszka Radwanska. Vitalia Diatchenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova then beat Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska 6-4, 6-4 in a meaningless doubles match.

Sharapova showed little sign of weariness this weekend after her tough loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final.

"It is never easy to play after a long journey, new surface and very little training on it," Sharapova said. "I tried to play my best tennis and I am happy that I won in two sets."

Germany won both reverse singles to take a winning 3-1 lead over Australia.

Angelique Kerber beat Australian No. 1 Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-4 before Andrea Petkovic defeated Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 in just under two hours to set up a semifinal against Russia. Germany then also won the doubles match.

The Czechs also breezed through after Karolina Pliskova earned her second victory in two days, beating Gabriela Dabrowski 6-4, 6-2 to establish a 3-0 lead over host Canada, before the visitors also won the doubles.

The Czechs beat Germany in last year's final.

The United States could be back in the world group next year after Venus Williams defeated Maria Irigoyen of Argentina 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to put the Americans into the playoffs in April with an unassailable 3-1 lead.

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