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Italy, US advance to Fed Cup final

DEFENDING champion Russia relinquished its two-year Fed Cup stranglehold yesterday when Italy triumphed in their semifinal to book a title match-up with the US.

Italy, the champion in 2006, will host the November 7-8 final after Francesca Schiavone's battling 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-2 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth rubber of the tie in Castellaneta Marina.

The Italian No. 2, and world No. 44, scored her second three-set win of the weekend to give the hosts an unassailable 3-1 winning lead over the Russians who have won four of the last five Fed Cup titles.

Earlier, world No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova prevented a potential whitewash by defeating Flavia Pennetta 6-0, 6-3 in 73 minutes.

However, 18-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, who replaced Anna Chakvetadze in the second singles, was unable to win in her debut.

Italy lost to Russia in the 2007 final.

In Brno, the US reached the final by beating the Czech Republic 3-2, getting the decisive point from the doubles team of Liezel Huber and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Huber and Mattek-Sands saved a match point before easing past Czechs Iveta Benesova and Kveta Peschke 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.

Earlier, teenager Alexa Glatch kept the Americans in it by beating Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-1. In the first reverse singles match, Lucie Safarova defeated Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1.

In Frankfurt, China lost its Fed Cup World Group playoff against Germany at 2-3 despite Peng Shuai beating Tatjana Malek 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in the second reverse singles.

Zheng Jie earlier defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-5, 6-4 to keep China in the match on outdoor red clay after Germany had won both opening singles on Saturday.

But Sabine Lisicki and Groenefeld rallied past Zheng and Peng 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the decisive doubles rubber.

In Lleida, Spain, Jelena Jankovic led Serbia into the World Group for the first time by beating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 for an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Spain.

Jankovic overcame a cold to beat Medina Garrigues in a close match that knocked five-time Fed Cup champion Spain out of the competition's top group for the first time.


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