Defending champions Russia wrapped up a 5-0 thrashing of China on Sunday to book a Fed Cup semi-final against Italy in a repeat of the 2007 final after the Italians dispatched France in Orleans.
The Russians have dominated the tournament in recent years and on current form look set for their fifth title in the past six years after Anna Chakvetadze motored past Yan Zi 6-1, 6-2 for the decisive third point before debutant teen Alisa Kleibanova crushed Sun Tian-Tian 6-1, 6-1.
Star pair Elena Dementieva, the Beijing Olympic champion, and Svetlana Kuznetsova completed the whitewash with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 doubles success over Yan and Sun.
Chinese skipper Zhang Qi strove to lift a depleted squad — missing the injured Zheng Jie as well as Li Na — but was unable to prevent Russia repeating their 5-0 romp in the countries’ only previous meeting in 2002.
Italy, meanwhile, reached their third semi-final in four years after Flavia Pennetta obliterated Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2.
France, champions in 2003, slumped to their third opening round loss since 2005 after Pennetta saw off former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday in a bad-tempered three-setter.
The Czech Republic also moved into the semis for the first time in 12 years after beating fellow five-time champions Spain 4-1.
Petra Kvitova saw off Nuria Llagostera 6-4, 7-5 and Lucie Safarova moved past Carla Suarez 6-4, 6-3 after the teams had ended the first day all square.
The Czechs can now look forward to a home encounter with the US, who defeated Argentina 3-2.
The US, playing without the superstar Williams sisters, also got a key contribution from a teenager, as 17-year-old Melanie Oudin shrugged off a 30-minute rain delay and rallied from a set down to defeat Argentina’s Betina Jozami 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 and force a deciding doubles match in Surprise, Arizona.
Julie Ditty and Liezel Huber then cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Gisela Dulko and Jozami.
Earlier on Sunday, Dulko defeated US veteran Jill Craybas, 6-1, 6-3, to give the Argentinians a 2-1 advantage.
The match was the second, which was claimed by Dulko, who defeated Oudin on Saturday — when Craybas defeated Jozami.
Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic gave Serbia an unassailable lead over Japan to send Serbia into the World Group play-offs for the first time following a 6-3, 6-2 win over veteran Ai Sugiyama before Ana Ivanovic beat Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-2.
Japan won the dead rubber doubles to make the final result 4-1 for Serbia, which had taken control on Saturday, when French Open champion and world No. 8 Ivanovic showed glimpses of her form last year to defeat Sugiyama 6-4, 6-4, before Jankovic destroyed 18-year-old Morita 6-1, 6-0.
Slovakia, Germany and Ukraine also won their World Group II ties.
AP, VINA DEL MAR, CHILE
Top-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile defeated Argentina’s Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-3 on Sunday to claim his fourth Movistar Open title.
After a smooth first set for Gonzalez, fourth-seeded Acasuso upped the tempo in the second.
With the scores level at 3-3, defending champion Gonzalez broke Acasuso’s serve and then took advantage of a double fault by the Argentine to move ahead 5-3. Gonzalez then held his serve to win the match.
■SA TENNIS OPEN
AFP, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his third ATP title on Sunday with a 6-4, 7-6 triumph over fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in a thrilling SA Tennis Open final.
The 23-year-old Le Mans-born Tsonga won in Bangkok and Paris last year and succeeded in the revived South African tournament without dropping a single set in five matches.
Croatia’s Marin Cilic won the ATP Zagreb tournament with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of his countryman Mario Ancic on Sunday.
Second-seeded Cilic, who did not lose a set the entire week, dominated as Ancic simply did not have an answer to his forehand.
Indian police are investigating an alleged betting scandal in which a sham cricket tournament was held in an Indian village and passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka. Players portrayed as Sri Lankan cricketers played two matches on Monday last week that were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube, media reports said, along with ball-by-ball coverage on top Indian sports Web sites. The organizers hung Sri Lankan advertisements at the ground for added authenticity and put up tents to block the view from outside the remote rural venue, set in farmland next to a busy highway. Police said that they
Taipower on Sunday charged to their third straight win and took over first place in the Taiwan Football Premier League as previous leaders Taichung Futuro suffered their first defeat of the season, while Hang Yuan rallied from two goals down to complete a thrilling 3-2 victory over National Taiwan University of Sport (NTUS). Heading into the 10th round of matches, unbeaten Taichung Futuro led the league with 21 points, but they fell to their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Tatung at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung. In a match in which both defenses were on top and there
Thailand international Pitsamai Sornsai, a new arrival for Inter Taoyuan, is to lead her team against Taipei Bravo tomorrow in the 10th round of the Taiwan Mulan Football League. Sornsai, who is nicknamed Pui, has attracted interest from media and fans as the first foreigner signed to play in Taiwan’s women’s league. Inter are among six teams battling for the title this year. The addition of Sornsai is a boost for the international profile of women’s soccer in Taiwan and elevates the competition. The 31-year-old brings a wealth of experience, including from the Asian Football Confederation’s Women’s Championship, the Southeast Asian Games and
HOTSHOT: Luis Suarez scored his 194th goal for Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez and Lionel Messi With another decisive penalty from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid on Sunday extended their perfect run after the COVID-19 suspension and moved closer to their first Spanish title in three years. Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barcelona after assists from Lionel Messi. Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty to give Madrid their seventh straight victory and they remain the only team with a perfect record since La Liga resumed. “These three points are very