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Czechs, Americans reach Fed Cup semis

DEFENDING champion Russia, Italy and the Czech Republic advanced to the semifinals of the Fed Cup on Sunday, all completing their wins in reverse singles.

The United States had a tougher time, relying on a doubles win to break the deadlock with Argentina to advance 3-2.

Russia, which has won four of the last five Fed Cup titles, routed China 5-0 with Anna Chakvetadze and Alisa Kleybanova both winning before the doubles team of Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova finished it off on the indoor hard courts in Moscow. Russian will meet Italy in the semifinals in April.

Italy eliminated France 5-0, taking an unbeatable lead when Flavia Pennetta defeated a crying Alize Cornet, and the Czechs knocked out 2008 runner-up Spain 4-1.

Melanie Oudin, 17, kept the US alive by rallying to beat Betina Jozami 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 and level the competition at 2-2. Then Liezel Huber, born in South Africa but a US citizen since July 2007, teamed with Julie Ditty to beat Jozami and Gisela Dulko 6-2, 6-3 to give the Americans the victory.

The US has won 17 Fed Cup titles but none since 2000.

Cornet, a 19-year-old Frenchwoman who is ranked No. 14 by the WTA Tour, broke down crying in the second set of her loss to Pennetta when a ball that landed beyond the baseline was not called out. Pennetta won 6-2, 6-2.

"It was only my second tie," Cornet said. "I had one (singles) loss last year. I have two more losses this year. So it's really not easy for me."

In the second reverse singles match on indoor hard courts in Orleans, France, Sara Errani defeated two-time grand slam champion Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-4.

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won the doubles, beating Severine Bremond and Nathalie Dechy 6-4, 6-4.

The Czechs won all three matches on Sunday on indoor carpet in Brno, with Lucie Safarova beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-3, Petra Kvitova defeating Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-4, 7-5, and Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke teaming to beat Lourdes Dominguez-Lino and Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-4, 6-2 to set up a last-four clash with the Americans.

In World Group II, both Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic won their reverse singles matches to give Serbia a 4-1 win over Japan.

Jankovic beat Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2, and Ivanovic defeated Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-2.


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