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U.S. trails Italy, 2-0, after first day of Fed Cup final

November 6, 2010 |  5:49 pm

At one point in the first set, Bethanie Mattek-Sands won five straight games against her higher-ranked Italian opponent, Flavia Pennetta, and the American known as much for playing tennis in knee socks as for her groundstrokes scrapped her way into a tiebreak. It allowed the fans at the Sports Arena a chance to get noisy with some "USA, USA" cheers.

But not for long.

Mattek-Sands lost the tiebreak and eventually limped to the finish of her 7-6 (4), 6-2  loss to Pennetta on Saturday. She needed ice and a massage on her right leg, and the U.S. will need some miracle cures as well if it is to win its first Fed Cup title since 2000.

Defending champion Italy has a 2-0 lead (Fed Cup rookie CoCo Vandeweghe lost to French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 6-2, 6-4, in the first match) so the United States will need to win both singles matches and then the doubles match Sunday to win the title.

With her win, Pennetta improved her Fed Cup singles record to 18-4. Southern California tennis fans might remember the 28-year-old as the winner of the WTA Tour event at Carson in 2009, the last match played in the tournament that was dropped from the schedule at the end of last year.

-- Diane Pucin in San Diego