Tue, Apr 28, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Great escape gives US Fed Cup final date with Italy


Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, bottom, and Kirsten Flipkens celebrate their victory over Canada during their Fed Cup World Group II playoff match in Hasselt, Belgium, on Sunday.


The US proved there’s life beyond the Williams sisters on Sunday by staging a remarkable recovery to reach the Fed Cup final, where they will face Italy, who knocked out defending champions Russia.

Liezel Huber teamed up with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to give the US, a record 17-time winners, a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic in a thrilling deciding rubber in Brno.

Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke, aiming to put their country into a first final in 11 years, led 6-2, 5-2 and held match point before the Americans battled back to secure a 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 win and a first final spot since 2003.

Although the US will have to travel to Italy for the final on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, they will have history on their side, having won all nine meetings against the Italians.

After the teams were level at 1-1 overnight, Lucie Safarova beat Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1 before teenager Alex Glatch, ranked No. 144 in the world, eased past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 6-2.

Italy, the champions in 2006, will host the final after Francesca Schiavone’s battling 7-6 (9/7), 4-6, 6-2 win over Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth rubber of the tie on the clay courts of Castellaneta Marina.

The Italian world No. 44 scored her second three-set win of the weekend to give the hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead over the Russians, who have won four of the last five Fed Cup titles.

Earlier, world No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova kept Russia, playing without world No. 1 Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova, alive by defeating Flavia Pennetta 6-0, 6-3.

In the playoffs, Serbia reached the World Group for the first time when they beat five-time champions Spain.

Leading 2-0 overnight in Lleida, world No. 4 Jelena Jankovic shook off a fever to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, giving Serbia an insurmountable lead.

Also making sure of World Group places were Germany, who beat China 3-2, and Ukraine, who whitewashed Argentina 5-0.

Germany had led China 2-0 overnight, but the Asian giants leveled when Zheng Jie beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-5, 6-4 and Peng Shuai saw off Tatjana Malek 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Groenefeld and Sabine Lisicki then defeated Zheng and Peng 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the doubles to secure a 3-2 win.

The other playoff saw France edge Slovakia 3-2 in Limoges with Amelie Mauresmo and Nathalie Dechy winning the decisive doubles against Daniela Hantuchova and Dominika Cibulkova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

The win preserved France’s World Group status, which they have held since 1963.

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