Moscow, Feb 11 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia beat Japan 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the Fed Cup after bouncing back from 1-2 down.
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina won the final doubles rubber Sunday, beating the Japanese duo of Misaki Doi and Ayumi Morita 6-2, 6-2.
"I think we played very confidently as a pair. I'm very happy, a lot of emotions about the doubles because we really played as a pair," Makarova said.
Russia faces Slovakia in April's semi-finals after the Slovakians took an unassailable 3-1 lead over Serbia Sunday.
Four-time champions Russia have lost a World Group first-round match only once since returning to the Fed Cup's top tier in 1997, the only blot a 2006 loss to the Belgium team of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.
In the final doubles rubber, the turning point in the first set came when Makarova and Vesnina broke the Japanese serve at 2-2 before going on to win the next four games and take the set. The Russians were broken in the first game but recovered immediately to level the score, helped by poor Japanese serving as Doi and Morita landed just 52 percent of their first serves.
In the second set, Makarova and Vesnina showed the coordination born of regular doubles play together as they charged into a 4-1 lead before closing out the match.
"I think they need more time to play together in this team and they will in the future. I'm not disappointed, the Russian team is strong," Japan captain Takeshi Murakami said of his doubles team.
World No.13 Maria Kirilenko put Russia into a 1-0 lead Saturday by beating veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 7-6(3), 6-4 before Morita's 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Makarova levelled the score.
Sunday's first match saw 33rd-ranked Vesnina step in for the ill Kirilenko and lose 4-6, 1-6 to the in-form Morita, Japan's No.1 at 57th in the world.
Twentieth-ranked Makarova then took the match to the decisive doubles rubber with a 6-1, 6-1 demolition of the injury-hit Date-Krumm.
"During the last two years, Ayumi and Kimiko have played singles. I believe in [Date-Krumm's] tennis," Japan captain Murakami said, explaining why he chose not to replace Date-Krumm with Doi in the singles.
In the doubles, Makarova replaced youngster Margarita Gasparyan, ranked 226th, who was originally slated to play the rubber.
Japan and Russia have never previously met in Fed Cup. Japan, who were playing their first World Group match in seven years, will now play a relegation playoff against a second-tier team in April.
Murakami said his aims for Japan's upcoming Fed Cup game were to develop the team's doubles ability and to bring through players to play singles, pointing to Date-Krumm's age.