France no match for Williams sisters stand-ins


PARIS: Emerging teen star Melanie Oudin sealed the United States’ passage to the semi-finals of the Fed Cup on Sunday with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 win over Julie Coin, as the Americans eased through 4-1.

Melanie Oudin

Melanie Oudin

Also advancing were holders Italy, who waltzed past hosts Ukraine 4-1 in Kharkiv as the sister act of Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko failed to disturb Francessa Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta before Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci carried off the doubles for good measure.

In the absence of the Williams sisters the American contingent has shown its strength in depth and Oudin, who looked a little out of her depth in last year’s final loss to Italy, was delighted to prove her own worth in bagging the all-important point at Lievin.

“This victory is very important for me as I lost the decisive match against Italy in the final. I was tense to begin with but Julie was also making things tough for me as she was serving very well.

“Then I got into my game. I’m really happy to have helped my team win this match in France,” said the 18-year-old from Georgia, ranked 53 on the WTA computer as she took her country’s Fed Cup record to 11-1 against the French.

Oudin, breaking crucially in the fifth game of the second set to steady herself, made headlines last year with an exciting run to the US Open quarters having reached round four at Wimbledon, shocking former world number one Jelena Jankovic en route.

At Flushing Meadows, she then defeated fourth seed Elena Dementieva and another former number one, Maria Sharapova.

Here, she beat Pauline Parmentier in straight sets in Saturday’s second singles rubber after 140th-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands had started the ball rolling with a 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 win over Alize Cornet.

That loss being Cornet’s sixth loss in as many Fed Cup starts, team captain Nicolas Escude withdrew her from the firing line and sent in Coin.

But she was unable to prevent Oudin, taking her tournament record to 3-3,  sealing the decisive point which takes the USA through to the semi-finals as they hone in on an 18th title.

“I gave it all I had,” said Coin. “But she turned it up on the important points. I had a first set break but then my service lost its edge.”

In the semis, the Americans will play Russia – who edged Serbia 3-2 in a thrilling tie.

Serbia kept in the clash thanks to the impeccable Jelena Jankovic who made it two singles rubbers out of two when she beat former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

However, her teammate Ana Ivanovic’s woeful form continued as she lost to Alisa Kleybanova in straight sets and then she and Jankovic had no answer in the decisive doubles as they were steam-rollered in straight sets.

Elsewhere on Sunday, the Czech Republic edged out Germany 3-2 at Brno after a thriller which went down to the final rubber. — AFP