Tennis: Hantuchova, Cibulkova put Slovakia in charge

Slovakia, the 2002 Fed Cup winners, moved towards their first ever win over four-time champions Russia when they took a commanding 2-0 lead after the first day of their semi-final on Saturday.

Daniela Hantuchova recorded Slovakia's second win beating Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-4, after Dominika Cibulkova had battled back from a set down to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

Russia went into the weekend boasting a perfect record against Slovakia having won both of their previous Fed Cup meetings in Bratislava in 1999 and two years later in Moscow.

"I played well and I'm really happy with my today's performance," Hantuchova said.

"I have experience of playing in the Fed Cup and it helped me a lot to win. I felt confident and everything went my way from the start."

Hantuchova, who had a 5-2 head-to-head record with the 26-year-old Kirilenko ahead of Saturday's encounter, broke her opponent's serve twice to gain a one-set advantage in 48 minutes.

In the second, Hantuchova, 29, produced two more breaks to take the set and the match in one hour 43 minutes sealing her victory with a precise backhand.

Cibulkova recorded her second win over Pavlyuchenkova in their third meeting.

"It was a very hard win," Cibulkova said.

"I started nervously and made too many mistakes in the first set.

"In the second I forced myself to battle for every single ball and it paid off as I managed to come back into the match, although I had luck on my side on several occasions.

The reverse singles and doubles take place on Sunday. The winner will face either Italy or defending champions, the Czech Republic in the final.