Belgium beats US 4-1 in Fed Cup
ANTWERP, Belgium – Australian Open winner Kim Clijsters came from behind to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-2, 6-1 Sunday and lead Belgium to a 4-1 win over the United States and a place in the semifinals of the Fed Cup World Group.
After Clijsters gave Belgium an insurmountable advantage, Yanina Wickmayer defeated Melanie Oudin 6-2, 6-0 for a 4-0 lead. The U.S. team secured its only point when Liezel Huber and Vania King beat Kirsten Flipkens and An-Sophie Mestach 6-3, 7-5 in doubles.
Mattek-Sands gave the U.S. team its first set of the weekend when she outlasted Clijsters in the tiebreaker, but the second-ranked Belgian easily dominated the No. 48 from then on.
"It really feels good to see that 3-0 on the board so soon," Clijsters said.
It is the first time in Fed Cup competition that the Americans have lost two ties in a row, after being defeated by Italy in last year's final. Belgium will host the Czech Republic in Charleroi on April 16-17 for a place in the final.
The Czech Republic reached its third consecutive semifinal after Australian Open quarterfinalist Petra Kvitova secured the decisive win in the first reverse singles en route to a 3-2 victory over Slovakia in Bratislava.
Russian rallied from 2-0 down against France, with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova winning their reverse singles and pairing to win the doubles match and secure a 3-2 victory.
The Russians will host two-time defending champion Italy on April 16-17. The Italians ousted Australia when Flavia Pennetta extended her Fed Cup winning streak to 10 matches with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jarmila Groth. Italy then won the doubles match to close out the 4-1 victory.
After Mattek-Sands lost to Wickmayer on Saturday, with unforced errors costing her throughout, the American was aggressive and precise from the start Sunday. She served for the set at 5-4, but let Clijsters back in for the tiebreaker. Despite the noise from the 10,000 fans at Sports Palace, she didn't crumble in a tiebreaker in which both players had great trouble winning points on serve.
"Against top players, she can play a great game," Clijsters said. "I was just hoping she would not keep it up."
Losing the first set roused the fighter in Clijsters, and she then took charge, never giving Mattek-Sands a chance in a speedy, high-quality second set.
In the decider, Clijsters immediately broke and continued pressing as errors slipped back in Mattek-Sands' game.
Clijsters had beaten Oudin on Saturday while Wickmayer defeated Mattek-Sands to put Belgium in an ideal position ahead of the final day.