Czech defence off to a flier
The Czech Republic got the defence of their Fed Cup title off to a perfect start against Australia on Saturday with wins in the opening singles rubbers.
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In the first rubber, world number eight Petra Kvitova beat Jarmila Gajdosova 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 in an hour and 35 minutes.
Safarova then upset the odds by defeating world number nine Sam Stosur 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/4) in a two-hour-28-minute battle in Ostrava.
Kvitova led the Czechs to Fed Cup wins in 2011 and 2012 and admitted to suffering from nerves as the bid for a hat-trick got under way.
"It wasn't an easy match and she had moments when she played very well, but she also helped me a few times," the 22-year-old said. "I was terribly nervous in the first set."
On Sunday, Kvitova will face Stosur looking to book a place in the semi-finals.
The three other World Group first-round ties all ended the first day evenly poised at 1-1.
The USA levelled their tie with Italy thanks to an unexpected win for Vavara Lepchenko over Roberta Vinci on the clay of Rimini.
Lepchenko fought back from a set down and then 5-1 down in the decider to post a 2-6 6-4 7-5 victory after Sara Errani had earlier thrashed Jamie Hampton 6-2 6-1.
The Americans, without both Williams sisters and rising star Sloane Stephens, had been given little chance of an upset but will go into Sunday's final day with renewed hope.
In the bottom half of the draw, the Slovak Republic had looked set to take a 2-0 lead in Serbia.
But with Dominika Cibulkova leading Vesna Dolonc 6-4 5-4, the Slovak suffered an injury and was forced to quit. She needed a stretcher to leave the court.
Serbia had earlier fallen 1-0 down when Bojana Jovanovski was beaten 7-5 6-2 by Daniela Hantuchova.
Slovakia team captain Matej Liptak said on www.fedcup.com: "The cramps started in her right calf muscle and, although we gave her magnesium, the pain soon spread to the rest of the body.
"These things can happen and I feel really sorry for Dominika, but more importantly the first priority for us is that she recovers fully.
"We can't say now whether she will be fit to play on Sunday. We will see what the scan says and then we will sit down and make a decision.''
In Moscow, Ayumi Morita pulled Japan level at 1-1 by beating Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-2.
Maria Kirilenko had earlier seen off 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 7-6 (7/3) 6-4.