Fed Cup At A Glance

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Spain defeats Croatia 2-1, takes lead in Group A

Spain took a commanding lead in the Fed Cup's Group A qualifying round-robin by defeating Croatia 2-1 in Friday's action in Bari, Italy.

Tenth-ranked Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Iva Majoli 6-4, 6-2 and her teammate, eighth-ranked Conchita Martinez breezed past Jelena Kostanic 6-3, 6-2 in this southern Italian city.

With victory already secured, and four points in the group standings, the Spanish doubles of Luisa Serna and Cristina Torrens-Valera succumbed 3-6 6-7 (3) to the Croatian pair of Majoli-Kostanic.

Majoli, a former French open champion, returned to action in Bari from a one-year injury layoff.

Saturday's match between Spain and Germany, which has two point, may decide the team qualifying for the Fed Cup's semifinal.

The match between Italy and Croatia would decide the team dropped from the World Group.

Croatia and Italy are tied with zero points.

Under the new Fed Cup format, 12 World Group teams are competing in three round-robin groups Thursday through Sunday. The winner of each group advances to join the United States' defending champion tam in November.

France defeats Australia in Federation Cup play

France's doubles team of Nathalie Tauziat and Julie Halard-Decugis beat Australia's Rennae Stubbs and Alicia Molik in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 (3) on Friday to give France its second consecutive victory in Federation Cup round-robin play in Moscow.

Nathalie Dechy put France ahead 1-0 in singles play as she struggled to beat Nicole Pratt 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in 2 hours and 42 minutes.

But in the next match, Australian teenager Jelena Dokic overcame hardserving French top seed Sandrine Testude, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-3, to even the match at 1-1.

In the decisive doubles match, the French pair won the first set in 18 minutes and prevailed on a second set tiebreaker to put the day's competition on ice, 2-1.

France, which defeated Russia on Thursday, will face Belgium on Saturday.

Under the new Fed Cup format, 12 teams are competing in three round-robin groups through Sunday in Moscow; Bari, Italy; and Bratislava, Slovakia.

The defending champion United States received a bye. The three winners of this weekend's group play will join the Americans in the semifinal and final round Nov. 22-26.

Czechs beat Switzerland 2-1 in the Fed Cup

Kveta Hrdlickova won her singles match and was part of the winning doubles team Friday as the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 2-1 on the second day of the Fed Cup's World Group B action in Bratislava, Slovakia.

In the first singles of the day, Hrdlickova subdued Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-1, 7-6 (4) in just under 90 minutes.

Gagliardi couldn't find an effective response to Hrdlickova's smart serve-and-volley play.

"I played very well today and didn't make too many mistakes," Hrdlickova said.

Switzerland's Patty Schnyder then steamrolled over Denisa Chladkova 6-2, 6-2, despite being tired from the exhausting seven-hour tie against the Slovaks, which ended at 1 a.m. (2300 GMT).

"Snyder was unerring, it was hard to keep pace with her," Chladkova said.

In the decisive doubles, Hrdlickova teamed up with Daniela Bedanova to beat Schnyder and Gagliardi 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The Czechs were the better pair for most of the match, but Hrdlickova made some unforced errors in the first set which complicated their situation.

The 17-year old Bedanova, the best player on court, virtually decided the match with perfect serves and volleys.

"I didn't know Bedanova prior to the match, I didn't know she was this good," Schnyder commented on the performance of the biggest talent of Czech tennis in years.

Bedanova said she was more nervous in the doubles than in the finals of the junior tournament at Wimbledon.

"I played for the Czech Republic which made me shiver down my spine," she said.

Early Friday, Switzerland beat Slovakia 2-1, with Schnyder and Gagliardi taking their singles matches and Slovakia's Karin Habsudova and Daniela Hantuchova winning the doubles.

With two victories in as many Group B matches, the Czechs are now close to advancing to the next round of the Fed Cup.

On Saturday, Slovakia faces the Czech Republic and Austria takes on Switzerland.