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Russia leads with twin victories

SVETLANA Kuznetsova defeated Yan Zi in the opening singles match 6-2, 6-4 and Elena Dementieva brushed aside Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-0 yesterday to give Russia a formidable 2-0 lead over China in the World Group I first-round series of the Fed Cup in Moscow.

The seventh-ranked Kuznetsova won the opening four games to cruise in the first set.

The 2004 US Open champion was broken in the fourth game of the second set when her forehand sailed wide and Yan served for a 4-1 lead in the set. Kuznetsova saved three break points on her next serve before winning five straight games to clinch the match in 72 minutes.

"I lost concentration in the beginning of the second set, while Yan got accustomed to my game," Kuznetsova said.

Australian Open semifinalist Dementieva had it much more easier against the much-lower ranked Zhang.The reverse singles and doubles are scheduled for today.

Russia has won four Fed Cup titles in the past five years and has not lost at home since hosting France in 2003.

China, which was swept 0-5 by Russia in their only previous meeting in Beijing in 2002, is missing its top players and has only three available for the match.

Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie is still not fit after suffering a wrist injury at the Australian Open while Li Na is recovering from ankle surgery and Peng Shuai didn't get visa.

The winner of the best-of-five series will play France or Italy in the semifinals on April 25-26.

In Perth, Australia, Jelena Dokic and Samantha Stosur had straight-set singles wins yesterday to lead Australia past New Zealand and into April's Fed Cup World Group II playoff.

Dokic, who advanced to the quarterfinals at last week's Australian Open, beat Diane Hollands of New Zealand 6-4, 6-4. Dokic trailed 0-3 in the first set and 0-2 in the second.

Stosur then clinched the Asia/Oceania Zone I playoff promotion match for Australia with a 6-1, 6-4 win over New Zealand No. 1 Marina Erakovic. Stosur is ranked No. 43 and Erakovic 57th.

"I am happy with the way I have handled matches mentally this week," Dokic said. "I didn't play well (today) but you have to win even if you don't play well. I won the key points so I am happy with that."

Dokic has a 12-2 singles record playing Fed Cup for Australia and won all three of her matches in Perth this week.

Australia has beaten New Zealand five times in a row in Fed Cup play since 1965.


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