Russia and Japan are level at 1-1 after Day 1 of the Fed Cup’s opening round at Moscow’s Olimpiysky Arena.
Despite suffering from a cold, Maria Kirilenko bested Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm in straight sets to put Russia ahead on Saturday.
Forty-two-year-old veteran Date-Krumm gave serious battle to the Russian in the opening set, giving in only in a tie-break.
The second set was also tight as the Japanese player, trailing 5-1, managed to close the gap to 5-4 on her serve.
But Kirilenko had what it took to deliver the final blow, collecting a 7-6 6-4 win.
“I had a poor start to the first set. I felt uncomfortable as everything is different here. And playing indoor is nothing like an open-air court,” the Russian, who arrived in Moscow from a tournament in Thailand, told Sovetsky Sport. “But then I got into the game and as we were changing sides at 5-4 I felt that I’ll take her serve. The confidence was back.”
“It was great to see the packed stands today. I’m very pleased that tennis is growing in popularity. Play with such support is always great,” Kirilenko added.
However, Ekaterina Makarova was unable to follow her teammate’s footsteps, failing to cause problems for World No.53, Ayumi Morita, 2-6 2-6.
The tie concludes on Sunday, with two singles rubbers (Kirilenko v Morita and Makaraov v Date-Krumm) and a doubles match (Elena Vesnina/Margarita Gasparyan v Misaki Doi/Morita) scheduled on the day.