Serena leads U.S. past Belarus

Serena Williams recorded a singles victory on Sunday to move the United States into the Fed Cup World Group Playoffs.

The 2011 U.S. Open runner-up Williams improved to 2-0 this week by overcoming Anastasiya Yakimova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at DCU Center in Worcester. The victory gave the host Americans an insurmountable 3-0 lead in their best-of-five World Group II battle against Belarus, which was forced to play without world No. 1 star and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who is nursing a back injury after beating Maria Sharapova in last week's Aussie Open finale.

Williams blew a 4-1 lead against Yakimova in the opening set on Sunday, but cruised after dropping the opening stanza by winning 12 of the next 14 games.

The former No. 1 and 13-time Grand Slam champion Williams and Christina McHale were a pair of singles winners on Saturday, as McHale beat Yakimova and Williams topped Olga Govortsova, in straight sets. McHale improved to 2-0 for the week on Sunday with a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of Belarus' Darya Kustova to give the U.S. a laughable 4-0 margin.

This is the first-ever Fed Cup meeting between the 17-time champion U.S. and Belarus.

Team USA advanced to the World Group playoffs where it will meet a World Group first-round loser in April and needs to win in order to have a chance to compete for the Fed Cup title next year.