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US power into final
- FED CUP l Lisa Raymond seals Belgian fate

Moscow: Lisa Raymond powered the US into the Fed Cup final as she trounced Belgium’s Elke Clijsters 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday to give her team an unassailable 3-1 lead in their semi-final.

Within minutes of that crucial win, Raymond was back on court in partnership with Martina Navratilova, the American pair crushing Clijsters and Caroline Maes 6-1, 6-4 in the dead doubles rubber to complete a 4-1 victory. The Americans will face the winners of the second semi-final between hosts Russia and France, who were level at 1-1 after the first day.

In Wednesday’s opening match, Els Callens beat Meghann Shaughnessy 6-3, 7-6 to bring the Belgians, — who are missing their world No. 1 and 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters — back into the tie.

But Clijsters’ younger sister Elke, a late replacement for 17-year-old Kirsten Flipkens, could do nothing to stop in-form Raymond. The 30-year-old American, known more for her doubles prowess, produced another impressive display of power tennis following her 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Callens on Wednesday.

Raymond, who had little trouble on her own serve, broke 18-year-old Clijsters twice in each set before closing out the match in just 47 minutes.

“I haven’t played a singles match since 1999, so it felt really good to play two solid matches here,” said Raymond before praising her partner Navratilova, who improved her win-loss record in Fed Cup to 38-0 with Thursday’s victory. “It’s pretty amazing to be on a court with her,” she said.

“It’s one thing to represent your country, but to do it with Martina is something else.”

Earlier, Callens rebounded with a solid effort against Shaughnessy, the world No. 17.

The Belgian earned the only break in the second game to take the first set 6-3 before securing victory at her first opportunity, winning the tie-break 7-5.

“I definitely was a bit tired today, but Els played a good match and deserved her victory,” she said. “But we have a day off tomorrow and I think we’ll be ready for whoever we play in the final and we feel confident to bring the cup home,” Shaughnessy said. (Reuters)

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