Absent Seles gives Spain advantage

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The absence of the joint world No 1, Monica Seles, has left Spain as the favourites to beat the United States in the Fed Cup final starting in Valencia today.

The defending champions, led by world No 2 Conchita Martinez and No 3 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, have the advantage of being at home and playing on their favourite surface - clay.

Seles pulled out earlier this week to take time off to recover from injuries. She is replaced by 19-year-old Chanda Rubin, 15th in the WTA rankings, who will open the tie against Martinez.

The American Mary Joe Fernandez, ranked eighth in the world and drawn to meet Sanchez Vicario in today's second singles, said the surface would help the home side. "Logically it favours the Spaniards. They are the best in the world on these slow courts," she said.

Gigi Fernandez, the world No 1 doubles player, and Lindsay Davenport team up for tomorrow's doubles against Martinez and Sanchez Vicario.