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U.S. Beats Israel in Fed Cup Playoff

July 21, 2002

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Monica Seles overwhelmed Israel’s Anna Smashnova 6-4, 6-0 Sunday to put the United States back into the Fed Cup’s 16-nation World Group.

Seles’ victory gave the Americans a 3-0 lead in the best-of-five playoff.

After Seles won a close first set, Smashnova seemed to wilt in the 90-degree heat and under pressure of her opponent’s unrelenting ground strokes.

The U.S. team took a 2-0 lead Saturday when Seles beat Tzipi Obziler 6-4, 6-2, and Lindsay Davenport, in her first competition since knee surgery in January, defeated Smashnova 6-3, 6-3.

Seles made seven unforced errors in the first set and was having difficulty with her forehand. But Smashnova, Israel’s top player, double-faulted twice on deuce.

After breaking Seles’ serve to get back to 5-4, Smashnova was unable to maintain the momentum.

The pattern continued in the second set as Seles became more aggressive with her ground strokes and Smashnova appeared to slow.

Davenport was to meet Obziler in Sunday’s second singles match, and Meghann Shaughnessy and Lisa Raymond, the world’s No. 1-ranked doubles player, were matched against Hila Rosen and Shahar Peer.

The Americans moved into the World Group for the 2003 Fed Cup with a victory in their final match of the year.

Also winning playoffs to get into the World Group next year were Australia, China, Argentina, Czech Republic, Sweden and Slovenia.

In the Fed Cup quarterfinals, defending champion Belgium played without Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin and was eliminated by Italy.

The countries entered Sunday tied 1-1, but Silvia Farina Elia beat Els Callens 6-2, 7-6 (4), and Rita Grande defeated Carolina Maes 6-4, 7-6 (5) to put Italy in the semifinals.

Clijsters and Henin, both Grand Slam tournament finalists in 2001 and ranked in the top seven, skipped the matches on clay in Bologna to concentrate on the hard-court season and the upcoming U.S. Open.

Also reaching the Fed Cup’s final four were Austria, Spain and Slovakia. Austria beat Croatia, Spain topped Germany, and Slovakia surprised France.

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