Williams sisters give U.S. a 2-0 lead over Belgium

Apr 21, 2007 - 11:34 PM DELRAY BEACH, Florida (Ticker) -- The Williams sisters have given the United States a commanding lead in the Fed Cup. The Belgians were not expected to pose much of a threat without either Justine Henin or Kim Clijsters.

Venus Williams beat Kirsten Flipkens, 7-5, 6-2, and Serena Williams followed with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Carolina Maes on Saturday at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center.

This Fed Cup quarterfinal matchup between the U.S. and Belgium is much different than the one staged by the countries last July in the semifinals.

Then the Americans were without Venus or Serena, who both pulled out due to injuries, and were forced to go with Jill Craybas and Jamea Jackson in the best-of-five tie at Ostend, Belgium.

Clijsters easily won both of her singles matches to lead Belgium to a 4-1 series victory.

This time, the return of the Williams sisters and the absence of Clijsters and Henin make the U.S. a heavy favorite in the tie.

Venus actually was behind 5-3 in the first set before winning four straight games. Flipkens, who is ranked 132nd in the world, crumbled under the pressure with a double fault to lose serve and then double-faulted again on break point.

"It was very windy and I rushed a few shots in that first set," said Venus, who double-faulted three times in the set. "There were a few serves there where at the last minute the wind takes the ball."

Venus won the last five games of the second set to close out the match.

"She (Flipkens) had nothing to lose because she wasn't supposed to win the match," Venus said. "She can catch fire and play a great match. I knew all those things could happen. But in the second set I just moved my feet better and played better."

"I think I played a good match," Flipkens said. "I'm really happy about the way I played."

U.S. Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison can feel comfortable knowing that only one of the Williams sisters has to win in the reverse singles on Sunday to clinch the best-of-five tie.

Serena Williams will face Flipkens and Venus is matched up against Maes.

The American doubles team of Lisa Raymond and Vania King will meet Yanina Wickmayer and Tamaryn Hendler in what will likely be a meaningless doubles match.

Raymond, 33, is the top-ranked doubles player in the world. She is 9-2 all-time in Fed Cup doubles and was a member of the 2000 team that won the Fed Cup and the 2003 squad that lost to France in the final.

Belgium reached the final last year, losing to Italy, which captured its first Fed Cup title.

In the other quarterfinals on Saturday, host countries Russia, Italy and France all took 2-0 leads.

If the U.S. advances to the semifinals, it will face the Russia-Spain winner.

Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova staked Russia to its 2-0 lead over Spain at Moscow. Petrova beat Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-3, 6-4 and Kuznetsova defeated Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, 6-3, 6-2.

Italy is closer to a berth in the semifinals. Tathiana Garbin beat Tian-Tian Sun, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, in the first match and Italy benefited when China's Shuai Peng retired in the second match with a strained hamstring. Flavia Pennetta was leading the match, 0-6, 7-5, 3-0 when Peng retired.

Nathalie Dechy and Tatiana Golovin won their singles matches to give France a commanding lead over Japan. Dechy beat Ai Sugiyama, 7-5, 6-1, and Golovin defeated Akiko Morigami, 6-2, 6-4.

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