The third straight tightly contested match between the two put the Americans in a 2-1 hole Sunday in the best-of-five contest with Bethanie Mattek-Sands trying to keep them alive in the second reverse singles match against Ekaterina Makarova, who replaced a struggling Alla Kudryavtseva.
“I think this match was most important to the semifinals,” said Dementieva, who improved to 22-5 in Fed Cup singles matches. “I think we both were feeling a lot of pressure.”
The winning team hosts Italy for the Fed Cup title on Nov. 6-7. Italy advanced to its fourth Fed Cup final in five years with a 5-0 rout of the Czech Republic.
Oudin, who is 4-4 in Fed Cup singles, took advantage of Dementieva’s shaky serve to dominate the second set and take a 2-1 lead in the third. Dementieva got her service game going after holding only once in the first two sets, and won a luv game to end it. The 18-year-old Oudin’s final shot from the baseline was long.
“I fought as hard as I could, I did the best I could,” Oudin said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough today. She stepped it up at the very end, and that’s why she’s No. 6 in the world. She’s 10 years older that me, and that experience definitely helped her at the end of the match.”
Dementieva said her service issues were more a credit to Oudin’s deft returns. Neither player managed to hold serve in the first 10 games, and Dementieva had six double faults.
“Melanie was very aggressive in her return,” she said. “She was putting a lot of pressure on my second serve and playing really aggressively on my serve. I was probably not at my best.”
Added Oudin: “I don’t think that’s ever happened, that many times at least. She’s got some of the best returns in the game, I think. She put so much pressure on my serve, and then I was returning really well on her serves. It felt almost like we were holding when we were breaking.”
The young American and veteran Russian still produced a competitive, 2-hour and 37-minute match.
Oudin defeated Dementieva — and three other Russians — in a surprising run to the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year. Dementieva won the rematch in Paris in another three-setter.
This time she shook off Oudin’s nearly flawless play in the second set.
“When she came out for the third set,” Oudin said, “it was like the second set never happened. She was ready to go again.”