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Williams sisters sweep Czechs in Fed Cup play

Posted: Monday, April 28, 2003

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) The Williams sisters were a nation unto themselves.

They won all five matches they played against the Czech Republic without dropping a set, sending the United States into the quarterfinals of the Fed Cup.

My serve was cooking a little more,'' top-ranked Serena Williams said after the clinching victory. It's a wonderful experience. I really love it. Go USA.''

The United States took a 2-0 lead into Sunday, and Williams needed just 50 minutes to beat Klara Koukalova 6-2, 6-2 and put the Americans into the next round in July, when they will face Italy.

She gave the United States an unbeatable lead in the best-of-five competition. Venus Williams defeated Iveta Benesova 6-3, 6-2 in the last singles match, with doubles to follow.

The sisters completed the 5-0 weekend sweep with a 6-0, 6-1 doubles victory in 44 minutes, beating Daja Bedanova and Eva Birnerova.

They then joined teammates Meghann Shaughnessy and Alex-andra Stevenson in parading the American flag around the Tsongas Arena court after the clinching match.

U.S. captain Billie Jean King opted not to substitute the sisters for the doubles match.

When your No. 1 and 2 players want to play, they play. They've earned it,'' King said, adding that Shaughnessy and Stevenson understood. I told them and they said, 'Fair enough, we have to earn it.'''

Serena Williams said the doubles match was a good opportunity for not only myself and Venus to get a wonderful practice, but as well for the fans.''

The Williams sisters said they hope to play against Italy, but offered no promises.

The Czechs, a match away from elimination, made a last-minute lineup change Sunday against Serena Williams. Koukalova took the court instead of Bedanova, who lost to Venus in 48 minutes Saturday.

Actually, Venus said she expected that,'' Serena Williams said. It doesn't matter.''

A day earlier, Serena Williams attributed her slow start to another surprise she hadn't realized Benesova was left-handed. She won 7-5, 6-1.

The outcome was in stark contrast to last year. King kicked Jennifer Capriati off the team last year for practice violations. That resulted in the team forfeiting the first match against Austria, which won 3-2 in Charlotte, N.C.

I think the biggest difference definitely is you see that teamwork and chemistry works,'' U.S. assistant coach Zina Garrison said. The enthusiasm has been great.''

Serena Williams recorded nine aces against Koukalova and was successful on 10 of 13 net approaches.

I still feel a little rusty on the edges,'' she said. My commitment to go to the net was what I've been looking for in the past year or so, but I would still like to make more of a commitment.''

King calls Serena the complete package ... but can you imagine if she starts going to the net more often, too? It can only get better.''

Koukalova, ranked No. 73, got word from Czech captain Petra Langrova on Saturday that she would replace Bedanova.

Serena knows Daja very well, so they change it for surprise,'' Koukalova said. She's first in the world, so it's hard to play with her.

The United States has won the Fed Cup a record 17 times and is the favorite this year. The final is in November.

The Williams sisters, who have won six of the past seven singles Grand Slams, had last played in the Fed Cup in the 1999 final, leading the team to the title over Russia.

The U.S. team beat Spain for the 2000 Fed Cup crown but skipped the 2001 final in Madrid because of security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks. Slovakia defeated Spain to win the Cup last year.

In other World Group matches, it was: Italy 3, Sweden 2; Slovakia 3, Germany 2; Russia 4, Croatia 1; Spain 3, Australia 2; Belgium 5, Austria 0; France 5, Colombia 0; and Slovenia 3, Argentina 2.

The other quarterfinal pairings are: Russia-Slovenia, Spain-France and Belgium-Slovakia.

Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci won the deciding doubles match, allowing Italy to advance in Linkoping, Sweden.

Daniela Hantuchova overcame a 24-hour rain delay and won twice to carry defending champion Slovakia in Ettenheim, Germany.

Anastasia Myskina defeated former French Open champion Iva Majoli 6-2, 7-5 in Moscow to give Russia an unbeatable lead.

Conchita Martinez routed Nicole Pratt 6-0, 6-2 and Magui Serna defeated Alicia Molik 6-4, 6-1 to power the Spaniards in Tarragona, Spain.

Kim Clijsters downed Patricia Wartusch 6-2, 6-2, leading the Belgian team past Austria in Bree, Belgium.

Amelie Mauresmo sent the French into the next round, stopping Colombia's Fabiola Zuluaga 6-4, 6-4 in Andrezieux-Boutheon, France.

Slovenia became the first team to reach the quarters, wrapping up its victory in Pilar, Argentina, on Saturday.



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