MOSCOW (AP)—Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won their reverse singles and paired up to win the doubles match Sunday as Russia staged a stunning comeback from 2-0 down to beat France 3-2 in the World Group first round.
France stung highly favored Russia on Saturday, when Alize Cornet and Virginie Razzano swept the opening singles.
Pavlyuchenkova, replacing Sharapova, narrowed the gap, beating Cornet 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Kuznetsova downed Razzano 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday’s second reverse singles to leave the tie to be decided by the doubles match.
The Russians beat Alize Cornet and Julie Coin, 7-6 (4), 6-0.
Russia was broken while serving for the first set at 5-4 but prevailed in a tiebreaker. Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova completely dominated the second set and won the match on the third match point.
In her singles match, Kuznetsova broke in the ninth game of each set against Razzano and closed the match with an overhead smash on her second match point.
"We’d played a couple of mentally and physically tough games before I equalized 4-4 in the second set," Razanno said. "I relaxed then a bit and lost concentration. I tried to level at 5-5 but luck was not on my side.
"Kuznetsova played a match worthy of a major champion today. I also played a good match, but she played better at key moments."
The 14th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova was outplayed in the first set against Cornet but came back to clinch the win after having double-faulted on her first match point.
"I really wanted to give Russia this point," Pavlyuchenkova said. "The pressure on me was really tough."
It was Pavlyuchenkova’s first Fed Cup win in three matches. She also lost to Francesca Schiavone of Italy in reverse singles in her debut, the 2009 semifinals.
"On the court today, I often remembered that my first match was also a decisive one," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I thought that if I lose this one as well I would not survive it."
Cornet was surprised to learn she would face Pavlyuchenkova.
"I really was preparing to play Sharapova," Cornet said. "But when I learned about Pavlyuchenkova, I told myself: ‘It doesn’t matter whom I play, I must win this match as well."’
Russia is undefeated in eight home ties since losing to France in the semifinals in 2003. Russia had never come back from 2-0 down since the Fed Cup moved to a best-of-five format in 1995.