Italy, Russia, France all cruise into Fed Cup semis

Updated: April 22, 2007, 9:31 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The United States, Russia, Italy and France reached the semifinals of the Fed Cup on Sunday with two matches to spare.

The United States ended up beating Belgium 5-0 to guarantee a spot in the last four, defending champion Italy did the same to China, Russia shut out Spain, and France blanked Japan.

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The United States advanced when Vania King, playing for a sidelined Serena Williams, beat Kirsten Flipkens 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 to give the Americans an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five match in Delray Beach, Fla.

After King won, Venus Williams beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-2. King and Lisa Raymond closed it out in doubles by beating Tamaryn Hendler and Caroline Maes 6-1, 6-2.

The Americans will play Russia in the semifinals July 14-15 at a U.S. site to be determined.

Fifth-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 on clay in Moscow at the Luzhniki indoor arena to give Russia its win over Spain.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, easily won the first set but struggled in the second.

"I completely lost the second set," Kuznetsova said. "I do not know what has happened to me. I could not go in for the ball at all."

Anna Chakvetadze, who replaced ninth-ranked Nadia Petrova, then beat Nuria Llagostera Vives 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the second reverse singles match, and Petrova and Elena Vesnina downed Laura Pous-Tio and Lourdes Dominguez-Lino 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the doubles.

Kuznetsova and the Petrova are the two highest-ranked players competing this weekend in World Group I. Both won their opening matches Saturday.

Italy got its deciding point when Tathiana Garbin beat Zhang Shuai 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at home on clay in Castellaneta Marina.

"She had a lightning start, but fortunately I was able to change her rhythm a bit," Garbin said.

Zhang was playing for Peng Shuai, who had three match points against Flavia Pennetta on Saturday, but withdrew with a hamstring injury while trailing 3-0 in the third set.

Mara Santangelo beat Sun Tian Tian 6-4, 6-2 in the final singles match, and Santangelo and Roberta Vinci downed Sun and Sun Sheng Nan 6-2, 6-4 in doubles.

Italy, which beat Belgium in last year's final for its first Fed Cup title, will face France in the semifinals.

The 18th-ranked Tatiana Golovin, who won her first WTA Tour singles title earlier this month at the Bausch & Lomb Championships, gave France the win over Japan by beating Ai Sugiyama 7-6 (3), 6-0 on outdoor clay in Limoges.

"The first set was very tense, very tight," Golovin said. "I think mental toughness made the difference because I committed a lot of unforced errors."

Virginie Razzano then beat Akiko Morigami 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-2 in the second reverse singles match before Severine Bremond and Nathalie Dechy topped Sugiyama and Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-2 in the doubles.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press