Sat, Nov 27, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Russia about to face France

FED CUP France routed Spain without dropping a set as Russia swept Austria during the semifinals in Moscow

AP , MOSCOW

Daniela Kix of Austria returns to Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia during the semifinals of the Fed Cup tournament at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow on Thursday. Myskina won the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

PHOTO: AFP

Russia will meet defending champion France in the Fed Cup final after they both achieved 5-0 sweeps of Austria and Spain, respectively, in the semifinals on Thursday.

France routed Spain without dropping a set, and Russia's top-ranked Anastasia Myskina was unexpectedly delayed by Yvonne Meusburger of Austria before winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and advancing the home side into the weekend final at Krylatskoye Ice Palace.

"If we don't succeed in playing our best tennis, we have no chance to win at all," France captain Guy Forget said. "And if we do manage to play our best tennis from the first point to the last -- which is not easy -- maybe we have a small chance."

US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova crushed Austria's Fed Cup debutant Daniela Kix 6-1, 6-1 in 39 minutes, then she and Elena Likhovtseva won the doubles 6-2, 6-2 over Meusburger and Patricia Wartusch.

Earlier, Nathalie Dechy secured an insurmountable 3-0 lead for France when she dispatched Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-1 in the first reverse singles. A backhand winner down the line brought up match point, which she claimed with a smash for her fifth consecutive Fed Cup win.

Tatiana Golovin then downed Marta Marrero 6-3, 6-4, and the French duo of Marion Bartoli and Emilie Loit beat Marrero and world No. 1 doubles player Virginia Ruano Pascual 7-5, 6-2 to complete the shutout.

"It's the best result we could imagine," Dechy said. "We won all the matches in straight sets and didn't spent much time on the court. It's a good preparation for the final."

French Open champion Myskina didn't drop a game the day before in her singles victory, and wasn't expected to be troubled by Meusburger, who only took two games off Kuznetsova on Wednesday.

But after leading 3-0, Myskina dropped six straight games and the first set.

"She surprised me by playing very slowly and I couldn't catch her rhythm," Myskina said. "On the other hand, after 3-0, I wanted another 6-0, 6-0 victory and started rushing things and made a lot of mistakes."

Myskina finally calmed down in the second set and regained control to help Russia reach its fifth final, in search of its first ever Fed Cup title.

France, which beat Russia in the semifinals last year, will play in its third final.

"The Russians are better physically, technically and mentally. When you win [Grand] Slams in singles, it means you are better then all the others," Forget said. "But I don't think we are that far behind [the Russians]."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce was available to return from a sore shoulder injury, but Dechy believed 16-year-old Golovin was playing well for France, after rising almost 300 places in the world rankings this year to 27th.

Moscow-born Golovin won seven consecutive games against Marrero to win the first set and take a 4-0 lead in the second in the dead fourth rubber.

"I think it's very good for her to play these matches," Dechy said of Golovin. "These two starting semifinals are easier then a start straight away in the final. She has gained experience. So I think she will be even better on the weekend."

France looked forward to meeting Russia in the final on Saturday and Sunday.

"I think, they [Russia] are much stronger on paper then we are. So we will be outsiders," Dechy said. "They have everything behind them -- they are playing on their stadium, they have the biggest team ever, so we can only make a surprise. And we are ready to do something good."

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