| Mary Pierce of France is congratulated by coach Guy Forget after her win over Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the Fed Cup semi-final on Thursday. (AFP)
Moscow: Mary Pierce edged Russian teenager Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Thursday to send France into the Fed Cup final against the United States, who beat Belgium 4-1 in their semi-final.
Pierce’s win gave the French an insurmountable 3-1 lead against Russia — later reduced to 3-2 by a home victory in the doubles — knocking the host nation out of the tournament.
Pierce, the former French and Australian Open champion who has not represented her country in Fed Cup since the 1997 final, had too much experience for the 19-year-old Zvonareva, who was playing her third Fed Cup match.
Afterwards, Pierce credited team captain Guy Forget for her victory.
“At the end of the match Guy told me to be more aggressive and just go for my shots,” she said. “For some reason I wasn’t aggressive enough and he reminded me of that.”
What was a joy for France was a huge disappointment for Russia and the thousands of fans in attendance, including former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
“Of course I’m disappointed, but I think I gained some valuable experience and hopefully next time I won't be that nervous,” Zvonareva said.
In the earlier match, world No. 4 four Amelie Mauresmo overpowered Anastasia Myskina 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to give her team a 2-1 lead.
The French victory was especially sweet for Forget as it avenged last year’s defeat to a Russian team led by his counterpart Shamil Tarpishchev in the Davis Cup final.
The United States will travel to Slovenia in the first round of the 2004 Fed Cup following Friday’s draw. The Americans topped the seedings in the 16-team World Group.
US captain Billie Jean King was asked to choose the home team for the April 24-25 tie against Slovakia by drawing lots.
Second seeds Belgium will host Croatia in their first-round clash.
Russia and France, who were seeded third and fourth, will take on Australia and Germany respectively, with French captain Guy Forget picking a home tie for his team.