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Sanchez-Vicario, Martinez Lead Spain Into Final

Fed Cup: Veterans beat newcomers from Czech Republic, setting up showdown with winner of tonight's U.S.-Belgium match.

November 22, 2000|From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez are in a familiar position--in the Fed Cup final with a chance for another championship for Spain.

This one could come with a bonus--in America against the defending champion United States.

The two Spaniards, who have combined for five Fed Cup titles in the last nine years, beat the Czech Republic in Tuesday night's semifinal to set up a final against the winner of tonight's match between the United States and Belgium.

Sanchez-Vicario beat Dana Bedanova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, to win one singles match and Martinez followed with an error-prone 7-6 (3), 6-7 (2), 6-4 win over Kveta Hrdlickova to give Spain the two wins it needed before the final doubles match in the first semifinal.

Before a sparse crowd of about 2,000 at the indoor court at Mandalay Bay hotel-casino, Sanchez-Vicario and Martinez played inconsistently but showed the will of veterans to pull out the semifinal win.

"I've played so many years Fed Cup," Sanchez-Vicario said. "It gives you motivation to play for your country."

Sanchez-Vicario sat in the stands and cheered on Martinez, who started strong before faltering against Hrdlickova, who won the second set and was up, 3-0, in the third set before the Spaniard came back strong to win the match.

Martinez was down, 4-2, in the third set before winning the last four games.

The win gave Spain a berth in the final, which begins Friday. The defending champion U.S. team, which is missing Serena and Venus Williams, plays a best-of-three match against Belgium.

The two Spanish players had a combined 161 Fed Cup matches between them against two Czech players who were relative newcomers to the competition.

The 17-year-old Bedanova played doubles last year, but was in her first singles match against the Spanish veteran.

"I tried not to be nervous, but I was in the beginning," Bedanova said. "Once I got settled down, I played better."

Bedanova, after a shaky start, won the last three games to win the first set, but Sanchez-Vicario upped her game in the second set and dominated the rest of the way.

"At the end I played like I was supposed to play the whole match," Sanchez-Vicario said.

In the second match, it looked like it would be the doubles match that decided the semifinal, after Martinez, ranked fifth in the world, struggled against the 47th-ranked Hrdlickova.

But Martinez took advantage of numerous unforced errors in the third set, steadying herself after losing the first three games to pull out the match.

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