CAGLIARI, Italy (AP) -- Roberta Vinci overcame a surprisingly tough challenge by unheralded Alexandra Panova to win 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 Saturday and give Italy a 1-0 lead against Russia in the Fed Cup final.
Vinci saved four match points against Panova, who appeared on the verge of pulling off an upset in her Fed Cup debut. The 13th-ranked Vinci is ranked more than 100 places better than the Russian.
However, the veteran managed to turn the match around in the second set to win in 3 hours, 13 minutes.
Russia has traveled to Italy without its top players, with some injured and others playing in the season-ending Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria.
Seventh-ranked Sara Errani faces 18-year-old Irina Khromacheva in the second singles match.