United States falls behind France 2-0 in Fed Cup final

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) The United States needs three straight wins if it's going to beat France in the Fed Cup final.

The Americans fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-five series after the French won both singles matches Saturday. Amelie Mauresmo overpowered Lisa Raymond 6-4, 6-3, and two-time major champion Mary Pierce outlasted Meghann Shaughnessy 6-3, 3-6, 8-6.

The losses on U.S. captain Billie Jean King's 60th birthday put all the pressure on the Americans heading to Sunday. After the opponents will be reversed for two singles matches, Raymond and 47-year-old Martina Navratilova will face Pierce and Emilie Loit in doubles. Navratilova is 38-0 in Fed Cup play.

King said both matches Saturday hinged on about three points, leaving hope for Sunday.

''I think we have a great chance,'' she said.

France has lost to the United States in their 10 previous Fed Cup encounters and won its sole title in the event in 1997 the only other time it reached the final. The United States is trying for its 18th Fed Cup title.

Against Belgium in the semifinals, Raymond scored straight-set victories over Els Callens and Kim Clijsters' younger sister, Elke.

''I think I was playing against a different caliber of opponent today,'' she said.

Mauresmo, ranked No. 4 and a finalist in the season-ending WTA Championships, paced France in the semis with victories over Russians Vera Zvonareva and Anastasia Myskina.

Serving for the match against Shaughnessy at 5-3 in the third set, Pierce surrendered three straight points and Shaughnessy broke back. The American then held to make it 5-5 and withstood three match points to tie it 6-6.

Pierce persevered, however, coming back from break point to win a six-deuce game and then broke Shaughnessy. Pierce then forced a match point with a backhand and won when the American netted a backhand.

''She was a little more aggressive,'' Shaughnessy said. ''She went for it more than I did, and that's what it takes.''

In the opening match, Mauresmo took a 2-1 lead when Raymond double-faulted at deuce. Mauresmo held in the next game with two aces and closed the set with two love games.

Raymond came back with two love games on her serve, going up 3-1 in the second set when Mauresmo survived four break points before sending a backhand wide after an exhausting rally.

But Mauresmo broke back immediately. Mauresmo shrugged off a double-fault in the next game and tied the set, then broke Raymond with four straight points to take a 4-3 lead. She went on to win the match, with the help of 10 aces.

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