London, Feb 5: Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova took more than two hours to put defending champion the Czech Republic in control of its Fed Cup tie with Germany, while Italy's Francesca Schiavone surprisingly lost to give Ukraine a boost on Saturday.
The Czechs led 2-0 in Stuttgart, Russia led Spain by the same score in Moscow, Italy and Ukraine were 1-1 in Biella, and Belgium and Serbia were 1-1 in Charleroi.
Germany was without its best player, an injured Andrea Petkovic, but pushed the Czechs hard in both singles.
Iveta Benesova overcame Sabine Lisicki 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, then Kvitova was, twice, two points from losing to Julia Goerges in the second set, but pulled through 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 in 2 hours, 21 minutes.
Goerges, who beat Kvitova in their only previous match, hit some superb service returns and twice broke back in the final set to put the pressure back on the Czech star.
"It was really little difference between us," said Kvitova, who won her 26th straight indoor match.
She can clinch the Czechs a spot in the semifinals in April by winning the first reverse singles on Sunday against Lisicki.
In Biella, 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone lost a home Fed Cup match on clay for the first time in seven years when she was picked apart by unheralded Lesia Tsurenko from Kiev 6-1, 6-2.
Tsurenko, ranked 110 spots below Schiavone at 121st, dominated with a strong serve and accurate volleys in just her third tie.
She evened the tie after Australian Open quarterfinalist Sara Errani beat Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-3.
In Moscow, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova won their opening singles as expected and without trouble.
Sharapova accounted for Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-2, 6-1 and Kuznetsova put away Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-1.
Sharapova was nervous because she lost her opening singles of her last tie in Moscow, last year against France. But Soler-Espinosa wasn't up to taking advantage of it. Sharapova can send Russia into a sixth successive semifinals in Sunday's first match against Suarez Navarro.
Belgium or Serbia will face the Russia-Spain winner in the semis, and the tie in Charleroi was evenly poised after the first day.
Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic first put Serbia in front by saving two set points in a 7-5, 7-5 win over Kirsten Flipkens, then Yanina Wickmayer hit back with 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Bojana Jovanovski, winning the last four games.
The minus-7 C temperature outside the Spiroudome almost overwhelmed the indoor heating, leaving the players and fans shivering. Jankovic joked she might turn out on Sunday in a coat and hat.