London:The United States and Italy reached the Fed Cup final on Sunday, with the Americans saving a match point in the decisive match of the best-of-five series and the Italians eliminating defending champion Russia.
The Americans, who have won a record 17 Fed Cup titles but none since 2000, beat the Czech Republic 3-2 in Brno. Liezel Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands saved a match point before defeating Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.
Francesca Schiavone earned the winning point for Italy by defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-2, with the Italians eventually winning 4-1. The Russians had won four of the last five Fed Cup titles, with Italy taking the other title in 2006.
The 2009 final, which will be in Italy, is set for Nov. 7-8.
The Czech doubles team broke Mattek-Sands' serve twice in the first set, and then broke Huber twice in the second to lead 3-1. The Americans, however, saved a match point at 5-2 and fought back to level the set at 5-5 before forcing the tiebreaker.
"At the end, we were lucky," Huber said. "We took our chances."
In the final set, Benesova was broken in the second game and sixth game before Huber served out the match, converting the second match point.
"That was unbelievable," Czech Republic captain Petr Pala said. "We were the better team for two thirds (of the match). We were so close. It's a big disappointment but what can we do about it? We just have to cope with that."
The 32-year-old Huber, who previously competed for South Africa, was playing for the United States for the third time. She won her doubles matches against Russia and Argentina.
"I'm very proud. I'm very, very excited," Huber said. "It's really emotional to play for the United States."
The Czechs were in good position to advance when Lucie Safarova defeated Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1 in the opening reverse singles match, but teenager Alexa Glatch kept the Americans in the series by beating Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-1.
Glatch, at 19 playing in the Fed Cup for the first time, broke Kvitova twice in the opening set to lead 5-1 and converted her first set point when the Czech double-faulted in the eighth game. Glatch, ranked 114th, continued to dominate in the second set, breaking her 48th-ranked opponent in the second and fourth games before serving out the match.
"This has been unbelievable," Glatch said. "I played well overall. I really don't know how I'm doing it."
Kvitova cried during a post-match news conference.
"She was excellent," Kvitova said. "I was trying to fight but she didn't allow me to do anything."
The Italians, who beat the Russians on clay in Castellaneta Marina, will play in the Fed Cup final for the third time in four years.
Schiavone earned the decisive point in the second reverse singles match.
"I had to concentrate when I lost the second set and when I nearly went 2-0 down in the third," Schiavone said. "She's very physical, but I'm more experienced."
In the first reverse singles match at Nova Yardinia tennis club, Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Flavia Pennetta 6-0, 6-3 to put Russia back in contention.
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Petrova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in doubles.
Russia was playing without top-ranked Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova.