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Spain beats Germany to qualify for semi-finals

In Bari, Italy, tenth-ranked Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario earned Spain a trip to November's Fed Cup semi-finals, winning her singles match and teaming up for the decisive doubles victory in Saturday's 2-1 triumph over Germany.

After Sanchez-Vicario rolled over Andrea Glass 6-3, 6-3 in the first singles match, top German player, Anke Huber, knocked off eighth-ranked Conchita Martinez, 6-3, 6-1 to draw even with the Spaniards.

But Spain secured the Group A title when Sanchez-Vicario and Martinez defeated Huber and Barbara Rittner, 6-3, 6-2 in the doubles match.

Spain swept all three of its matches on this Italian city's clay courts, beating Croatia 2-1 on Friday and Italy 3-0 on Thursday.

Earlier on Saturday, the hosts cruised to a 3-0 win over Croatia, which was eliminated from the World Group with its third loss in three days.

Italy's top women's player, Silvia Farina, defeated Croatia's Silvija Talaja 6-4, 7-5 to seal the win in this southern Italian city.

In the earlier singles match, Tathiana Garbin beat Jelena Kostanic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (6). Garbin later teamed with Giulia Casoni to take the doubles match over the tandem of Kostanic and Talaja, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Germany and Italy face off on Sunday.

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.

Italy defeats Croatia 3-0, keeps slim hopes alive

Italy kept its slim 2000 Fed Cup hopes alive Saturday with a 3-0 win over Croatia, which was eliminated from the World Group with its third loss in three days.

Italy's top women's player, Silvia Farina, defeated Croatia's Silvija Talaja 6-4, 7-5 to guarantee the clay-court win in this southern Italian city.

In the earlier singles match, Tathiana Garbin beat Jelena Kostanic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (6). Garbin later teamed with Giulia Casoni to take the doubles match over the tandem of Kostanic and Talaja, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Group A leader Spain faced Germany in the late match with a chance to clinch a spot in the November semifinals. A Germany win could make the concluding match against Italy on Sunday decisive.

Italy secures a future spot in the World Group with the win. Having lost to all three of its counterparts, Croatia is eliminated from the elite qualifying group.

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 advance to Fed Cup semi-finals; Switzerlands stays in World Group

In Bratislava, Slovakia, Emmanuelle Gagliardi took her singles match and teamed up with Patty Schnyder in the doubles to give Switzerland a 2-1 victory over Austria on the third day of the Fed Cup's World Group B action on Saturday.

Gagliardi easily defeated Patricia Wartusch 6-2, 6-4, while Austria's Barbara Schett struggled to beat Schnyder 7-6 (4), 7-5.

In the decisive doubles, Schnyder and Gagliardi beat Schett and Wartusch 2-6, 6-4, 8-6.

The match was a formality, as neither team had a chance to advance, and Austria had already known it had to beat Slovakia in the final tie on Sunday to make sure it avoids relegation from the World Group.

Earlier in the day, the Czech Republic defeated Slovakia 2-1 to clinch its third victory in as many matches and secure a spot in the Fed Cup semi-finals.

In the opening match, Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova, playing in her first career Fed Cup singles, beat Kveta Hrdlickova 6-4, 6-2.

The Slovak, ranked 157th on the WTA Tour, broke Hrdlickova's serve in the first game and took a quick 2-0 lead. After losing the next four games, she managed to come back and take the first set in just over an hour.

In the second set, the 17-year old Hantuchova dominated with her aggressive play based on powerful serving, pushing Hrdlickova, visibly tired from playing four matches in two days, into a defensive shell.

"I was in a perfect shape, I didn't give Hrdlickova any chance," the jubilant Hantuchova said, thanking the home crowd for its boisterous support.

In the other singles match, the Czech Republic's Denisa Chladkova beat Karina Habsudova 6-4, 6-4.

The Czech had the upper hand throughout the match, capitalising on forehands down the lines.

"I knew I had to win to boost our chances," Chladkova said.

Hrdlickova then joined Daniela Bedanova in the decisive doubles, overcoming a 4-1 deficit in the first set to beat Hantuchova and Habsudova 7-5, 6-3.

"This is a huge success for our team, something we badly needed" said Ivo Kaderka, President of the Czech Tennis Association.

The unheralded Czechs will join the United States and the winners of the other two round-robin World Groups in the Fed Cup's semi-finals, to be played November 22-26.

"In the semi-finals, we can only surprise, we won't be the favourite," Bedanova said.

Belgium beats heavy favourites France 2-1

In Moscow, Els Callens and Kim Clijsters won their singles matches on Saturday as Belgium surprisingly beat France 2-1 to remain one win away from the sem-finals and Russia routed Australia in the decisive doubles as Anna Kournikova and Elena Likhovtseva teamed up to beat Rennae Stubbs and Jelena Dokic, giving Russia its first victory in the tournament.

Belgium jumped to a 1-0 lead when Callens outplayed Julie Halard-Decugis, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

"I had nothing to lose. It's all or nothing now," said Callens, who broke the Frenchwoman twice in the third set to jump to a comfortable 5-2 lead and closed the match in 1 hour and 29 minutes.

But it was 16-year-old Clijsters who kept the Belgians' hopes to make it into the semi-finals alive, as she whitewashed French veteran Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 in just 58 minutes, the shortest match of the tournament.

The Belgian kept Tauziat, a netrusher, on the baseline, trapping her in the corners with powerful forehand crosscourts and high lobs.

France took the doubles play, with Tauziat and Halard-Decugis beating Callens and Laurence Courtois 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

Belgium needs to win just one match in its showdown with Russia on Sunday to qualify for the semi-finals in November in the United States. Russia was runnerup to the United States last year.

Earlier Saturday, it took Likhovtseva just 61 minutes to down Nicole Pratt of Australia in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 and put Russia ahead 1-0.

But Dokic, the 17-year-old Australian No 1, outplayed Kournikova, Russia's top player who is currently ranked 14th on the WTA Tour, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-3, to even the match 1-1.

"I really wanted to beat (Kournikova) in this tournament and I'm happy I've done it," said Dokic, who has won all three of her singles matches in as many days.

The tie was decided in a tough three-set doubles match. Kournikova and Likhovtseva defeated Dokic, who teamed up with doubles specialist Rennae Stubbs, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, to stay in the tournament.

Australia lost all three of its matches and will be eliminated from the World Group next year.

World Group pool A results from Bari, Italy

Spain beat Germany 2-1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario beat Andrea Glass 6-3 6-3 Conchita Martinez lost to Anke Huber 3-6 1-6 Sanchez-Vicario/Martinez beat Huber/Barbara Rittner 6-3 6-2

Italy beat Croatia 3-0 Tathiana Garbin beat Jelena Kostanic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) Silvia Farina beat Silvija Talaja 6-4 7-5 Rita Grande/Giulia Casoni beat Kostanic/Talaja 6-4 5-7 6-3

Group A Standings (Matches played in parentheses)

Spain, 6 points (3) Germany, 2 (2) Italy, 2 (2) Croatia 0 (3)

World Group pool B results from Bratislava, Slovakia

Czech Republic beat Slovakia 2-1 Kveta Hrdlickova lost to Daniela Hantuchova 4-6 2-6 Denisa Chladkova beat Karina Habsudova 6-4 6-4 Hrdlickova/Daja Bedanova beat Hantuchova/Habsudova 7-5 6-3

Switzerland beat Austria 2-1 Emmanuelle Gagliardi beat Patricia Wartusch 6-2 6-4 Patty Schnyder lost to Barbara Schett 6-7 (4-7) 5-7 Schnyder/Gagliardi beat Schett/Wartusch 2-6 6-4 8-6

World Group pool C results from Moscow

Belgium beat France 2-1 Els Callens beat Julie Halard-Decugis 3-6 6-4 6-2 Kim Clijsters beat Nathalie Tauziat 6-1 6-4 Laurence Courtois/Callens lost to Tauziat/Halard-Decugis 5-7 6-3 3-6

Russia beat Australia 2-1 Yelena Likhovtseva beat Nicole Pratt 6-3 6-2 Anna Kournikova lost to Jelena Dokic 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 3-6 Likhovtseva/Kournikova beat Rennae Stubbs/Dokic 6-3 4-6 6-1

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