| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

The United States Fed Cup team found itself in a fifth and decisive doubles rubber against Italy in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas First Round in Rimini, but came up short and lost to Italy, 3-2. After Varvara Lepchenko won her second consecutive singles match of the tie and Jamie Hampton lost a tough, three-set battle, Lepchenko was called upon again to replace Melanie Oudin in doubles and play with Liezel Huber. However, the doubles team of world number one doubles player Roberta Vinci and world number two doubles player Sara Errani were too strong and defeated the U.S., 6-2, 6-2, to win the tie.

The U.S. is now 5-3 in the decisive doubles match. Fed Cup vet Liezel Huber is 8-3 in doubles for the U.S. Fed Cup team, and this was her first live doubles loss (3-1). Lepchenko, who made her Fed Cup debut in this tie, had never played doubles with Huber. The U.S. last competed in a fifth and decisive doubles rubber in the 2010 World Group semifinal against Russia in Birmingham, Ala., where Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands clinched the tie.

After winning yesterday in her Fed Cup debut, Varvara Lepchenko again dominated in Fed Cup singles competition earlier today, upsetting world number seven Errani in the third singles rubber, 7-5, 6-2. Coming into this tie, Lepchenko was 0-11 against Top 10 players.

“I actually still feel like there are other matches that I have played that were better," said Lepchenko after the victory over Errani. "I feel like there are so many other things that I have to improve to get to my best tennis going. It is not the best match I had played, it was tough, but it is definitely one of the good matches that I have played."

The last U.S. Fed Cup rookie to win two singles matches in her debut was Alexa Glatch, who won her two singles matches in the Czech Republic in the 2009 World Group semifinal, helping send the U.S. team to their first Fed Cup final since 2003. After winning her two live singles matches, Lepchenko was also looking to join only two Americans who have ever won three live rubbers in one tie—U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (in 1996) and Lindsay Davenport (in 1995). Lepchenko remains the feel-good story of this Fed Cup tie. Yesterday, following Lepchenko’s other singles victory, she dedicated the win to her new fiancé, Taras. The couple met at a ski resort two years ago and he proposed in October on the beach in St. Augustine, Fla.

In the fourth singles rubber, Jamie Hampton, also making her Fed Cup debut, lost to world number 16 Roberta Vinci, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. This was Vinci’s first live singles win (now 1-4). She lost to Lepchenko in three sets yesterday.

The United States leads all nations with 17 Fed Cup titles, the last coming in 2000, and now holds a 142-33 all-time Fed Cup record. The United States is now 8-11 when playing on the road since the World Group format was instituted in 1995.

“I am really proud of the team. They played their hearts out in every match," said U.S. Captain Mary Jo Fernandez. " We knew it was going to be an uphill battle in every match. Varvara was MVP. She played some of her best tennis when it mattered most. I am really proud of her Fed Cup debut and the way she competed. She wasn’t feeling 100 percent today and you never would have known it. That was excellent.”

Italy will host defending champion Czech Republic in the semifinals, a rematch of last year's semis. The Czech Republic defeated visiting Australia 4-0. In the other semifinal, it's Slovakia at Russia. Slovakia topped host Serbia 3-2, and host Russia downed Japan 3-2.