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Russia sets up Fed Cup semis with Italy

CHAMPION Russia secured a place in the Fed Cup semifinals after easing to an unbeatable 4-0 lead against China yesterday.

Anna Chakvetadze thrashed Yan Zi 6-1, 6-2 before Alisa Kleybanova produced an even more emphatic 6-1, 6-1 win over Sun Tiantian in their first round tie in Moscow.

Chakvetadze made sure Russia, which is looking to win its fifth title in six years, booked a place in the last four by dominating a scrappy, error-strewn match against Yan from the outset.

"I'm happy with the way I played and I did have a tough time with my serve and I know I have to work on it, and hopefully I'll get my confidence back and start to play better tennis," Chakvetadze, who produced 10 double faults, said.

Chakvetadze, 21, broke Yan's first two service games, and six times in total, in the 67-minute encounter.

Both players struggled to hit clean winners and instead produced a string of errors. The match featured 56 unforced errors, more than half the number of points played.

Yan did break Chakvetadze's serve in the fifth game of the second set but by then it was too late and the world No. 19 overcame the hiccup to give Russia the winning point in the tie.

Russia will face Italy in the semifinals in April.

In Orleans, France, Italy opened an unassailable 3-0 lead in its first round tie against France after Flavia Pennetta cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win over a tearful Alize Cornet yesterday.

Pennetta, who on Saturday received a verbal warning and was fined US$2000 for making an obscene gesture toward the umpire during her match against Amelie Mauresmo, won nine points in succession to open a 5-2 lead and wrapped up the opening set by breaking Cornet's serve.

On Saturday, Pennetta saved a match point before beating Mauresmo and Francesca Schiavone defeated Cornet.

France asked for the Pennetta vs Mauresmo match's result to be overturned, saying the Italian should have been disqualified after showing the middle finger to the umpire, but the request was not heard.

In Brno, Czech Republic, Lucie Safarova beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-3 in reverse singles yesterday to give the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead over Spain in the first round.

On Saturday, Petra Kvitova beat Suarez Navarro in straight sets, but Nuria Llagostera Vives leveled the score by beating Iveta Benesova in three sets.


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