Fed Cup Round Up

Spain sweeps Italy 3-0, Germany knocks off Croatia 2-1

The one-two punch of Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario rolled over their Italian opponents in the singles matches on Thursday to lead Spain to 3-0 win in the first leg of the Fed Cup's Group A qualifying round-robin in Bari, Italy.

Tenth-ranked Sanchez-Vicario cruised past Giulia Casoni 6-1, 6-1, and then watched her eighth-ranked teammate Martinez beat Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 6-3 to assure the win for Spain, a five-time Fed Cup champion.

The pair then watched together, as Magui Serna and Cristina Torrens Valero made it a sweep of the hosts and 1999 semifinalist by defeating Casoni and Rita Grande 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in the doubles match.

Earlier in the day, Anke Huber cruised in her singles match and teamed with Barbara Rittner to take the doubles as 1992 Champion Germany defeated Croatia 2-1 in the other first leg competition.

Huber, ranked 15th in the world, overpowered Silvija Talaja in the afternoon's second singles match, 6-2, 6-2.

Croatia went up 1-0 as Jelena Kostanic came back from a one-set deficit to defeat Andrea Glass, 6-7 (9-7), 6-1, 6-3.

Huber and Rittner earned Germany the first victory in the four-day tournament in this southeastern Italian city, rolling over the doubles team of Talaja and Kostelic 6-4, 6-1.

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

Belgium and France win in Moscow Fed Cup

France defeated Russia 3-0 in Federation Cup play in Moscow on Thursday as Anna Kournikova lost in her return to the Russian team after missing two years with injuries.

Belgium defeated Australia 2-1 in the day's other round-robin action.

France's Julie Halard-Decugis, ranked 9th on the WTA Tour, downed Kournikova 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 as the Russian, ranked 14th in the world, committed 43 unforced mistakes, sending easy balls wide and long.

Sandrine Testude beat Elena Likhovtseva in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.

In the doubles, Halard-Decugis and Nathalie Tauziat defeated Likhovtseva and Kournikova, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

In the Belgium-Australia faceoff, Laurence Courtois put Belgium ahead 1-0 as she beat Nicole Pratt 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in the day's first match.

Jelena Dokic kept Australia's hopes alive in the second set as she outplayed Kim Clijsters 7-6 (4), 5-7, 9-7.

The deciding doubles match looked easy on paper for Australia, who fielded Alicia Molik and Rennae Stubbs, who was the Australian Open doubles champion with Lisa Raymond, against Courtois and Els Callens.

But after the Australians wrapped up the first set 6-1 in 25 minutes, they lost the second one at love. Down 8-9 in the final set, the Australians rebounded from love-40 and saved six match points before Molik sent a smash wide as Belgium won 10-8.

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.

Huber leads Germany to 2-1 win over Croatia

Anke Huber cruised in her singles match in Bari, Italy and teamed with Barbara Rittner to take the doubles on Thursday as Germany defeated Croatia 2-1 in the first leg of the Fed Cup's Group A qualifying round-robin.

Huber, ranked 15th in the world, overpowered Silvija Talaja in the afternoon's second singles match.

Croatia went up 1-0 as Jelena Kostanic came back from a one-set deficit to defeat Andrea Glass, 6-7 (9-7), 6-1, 6-3.

Huber and Rittner earned Germany the first victory in the four-day tournament in this southeastern Italian city, rolling over the doubles team of Talaja and Kostelic 6-4, 6-1.

Italy played Spain in the evening showdown.

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 team in November.

Czechs beat Austria 2-1 in Fed Cup World Group

Kveta Hrdlickova and Denisa Chladkova won their singles as the Czech Republic beat Austria 2-1 in the Fed Cup World Group B on Thursday in Bratislava, Slovakia.

In the opening match of the day, a nervous tie full of unforced errors, Hrdlickova beat Patricia Wartusch 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 as their own serve seemed to be a disadvantage for the players.

Both Hrdlickova and Wartusch kept losing theirs and breaking their opponent's serve from the second until the seventh game when the Czech scored an ace to take a 5-2 lead and eventually win the first set.

Wartusch recovered in the second set, winning it 6-1 as her newfound grit seemed to catch Hrdlickova by surprise.

But the Czech, playing her first match since the Australian Open, improved her forehand and pushed Wartusch into the defensive in the final set, capturing the match in just over 90 minutes.

"It was a nervous match on both sides and my serve was really sloppy at times," Hrdlickova said, adding that her two-and-a-half-month break from tennis, caused by bronchitis, showed in the second set.

In another three-setter, Chladkova beat Barbara Schett 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 after a two-hour battle.

Schett, 11th on the WTA Tour and the highest-ranked Austrian, broke Chladkova's serve twice in a row to take an early 3-0 lead, and although the Czech improved her net play in an effort to eliminate Schett's powerful baseline tennis, the Austrian eventually won the first set.

Chladkova, ranked 43rd in the world, then settled for long ball exchanges in the second set and, capitalizing on a perfect serve, won the other two sets to give the Czech a vital second point.

"The match was played in a fast tempo," Chladkova said. "I was in good condition and I wore Schett out."

Schett and Wartusch beat Hrdlickova and Daniela Bedanova 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 in the conclusive doubles, a formality after the Czechs already had a 2-0 lead.

Fed Cup Results, Group A

These are the Group A results from the first leg of the Fed Cup round-robin qualifying tournament played in Bari, Italy on Thursday.

Germany def. Croatia 2-1

Singles: Jelena Kostanic, Croatia, def. Andrea Glass, Germany, 6-7 (9-7), 6-1, 6-3. Anke Huber, Germany, def. Silvija Talaja, Croatia 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles: Anke Huber and Barbara Rittner, Germany def. Silvija Talaja and Kostelic, Croatia, 6-4, 6-1. Spain def. Italy 3-0

Singles: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Spain, def. Giulia Casoni, Italy, 6-1, 6-1. Conchita Martinez, Spain, def. Tathiana Garbin, Italy, 6-3, 6-3. Doubles: Magui Serna and Cristina Torrens Valero, Spain, def. Giulia Casoni and Rita Grande, Italy, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

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