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Yan, Zhang lead China charge in Moscow

SVETLANA Kuznetsova will play Yan Zi in today's opening singles of the Fed Cup World Group first-round series between defending champion Russia and China.

Yesterday's draw in Moscow also pitted Australian Open semifinalist Elena Dementieva against China's Zhang Shuai in the second singles.

Russia, which has won four Fed Cup titles in the past five years, is a clear favorite for the best-of-five series on an indoor hardcourt.

The fourth-ranked Dementieva has won two titles this season and has a 15-1 win-loss record. Her only loss came to eventual champion Serena Williams in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Dementieva has a 22-8 record in the Fed Cup.

No. 7 Kuznetsova reached the Australian Open quarterfinals and is 13-4 in Fed Cup play.

China is missing its top players and has only three available for the match. Zheng Jie, the 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist, injured her left wrist and retired in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Li Na is out after knee surgery. Peng Shuai failed to get a visa.

"The quality of our preparation should decide the result of the match," Russia captain Shamil Tarpischev said. "In terms of quality, our girls are definitely much stronger. But the Chinese players will fight until the end as they always do."

The winner of this weekend's match will play either France or Italy in the semifinals on April 25-26.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand advanced to the final of the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 playoff yesterday, Australia with its third straight 3-0 win and New Zealand edging Indonesia 2-1.

Casey Dellacqua beat Hwang I-hsuan of Chinese Taipei 6-1, 6-1 before Samantha Stosur gave Australia an unbeatable 2-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Chan Chin-wei.

Stosur and Rennae Stubbs extended Australia's unbeaten run at the tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Chan and Chuang Chia-jung in doubles.

Jelena Dokic was given the day off after featuring in Australia's 3-0 wins over South Korea and Thailand earlier.

Australia finished top of Group B and reached today's final against Group A winner New Zealand. The winner of the Asia/Oceania zonal final will advance to the World Group II playoff in April.


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