Tennis: US in a Cup clean sweep

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THE United States powered into the final of the Federation Cup yesterday, cruising past France in the two singles rubbers and rendering the doubles match irrelevant. Mary Joe Fernandez set the ball rolling with a rapid 6-1 6-3 defeat of Julie Halard and Lindsay Davenport sealed the American victory in beating Mary Pierce 5-7 6-2 6-2. Gigi Fernandez and Zina Garrison Jackson then completed the whitewash by overcoming Halard and Nathalie Tauziat 3-6 6-1 6-2.

In today's final, the United States will meet Spain, the defending champions and No 1 seeds, whose semi-final against Germany was far closer. The deciding doubles rubber saved the Spaniards, but at one stage, with Conchita Martinez having lost her first match since her Wimbledon triumph, and Aranxta Sanchez Vivario just two points away from defeat to Anke Huber, the Germans seemed on the point of a remarkable upset.

France, who were attempting to reach their first Federation Cup final, appeared to be showing the effects of the previous day's marathon victory over Bulgaria. Halard, who was the driving force in that win, failed to repeat her heroics and never got close to Fernandez, who has not dropped a set since the tournament began.

The stage was then set for Mary Pierce to save the French, but she too delivered a disappointing performance. She took the first set 7-5 but thereafter began to show the effects of her previous day's two-and-a-half- hour defeat by Magdalena Maleeva and she failed to take her chances against an opponent who was constantly called for foot-faults. As Pierce lost the upper hand, Davenport fought back to win the following two sets 6-2 6-2. It was the sixth time that France have been stopped in the semi-finals.

While France were crashing out in double-quick time, Martinez was losing 2-6 7-5 6-4 to Sabine Hack. Sanchez Vicario then came back from behind to beat Anke Huber 4-6 6-0 7-5 and level the scores. When it came to the doubles decider, however, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario put their struggles behind them and swept to a 5-7 1-6 victory over Christina Singer and Barbara Rittner.

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