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FEDERATION CUP

French Women Defeat U.S. to Win Title

November 24, 2003|Bud Collins | Special to The Times

MOSCOW — Icons are everywhere in this city, the majority of them hanging on church walls. But a couple of live tennis icons were at a canyonesque sporting tabernacle called Olympic Stadium this weekend.

Back together after all these years were Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, who were trying to help the United States win the Federation Cup, the women's world team championship. But it didn't work out.

France, spearheaded by Amelie Mauresmo, beat the U.S., 4-1, in the two-day final that concluded Sunday. The resurrected queen of the lost art of volleying, Navratilova, alongside Lisa Raymond, prevented the Americans from getting shut out with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Emily Loit and Stephanie Cohen-Aloro.

But time already had run out on a team captained by King that amounted to sort of a junior varsity of U.S. women's tennis.

Mauresmo, 8-0 in singles in France's victories over Colombia, Spain, host Russia and the U.S., got the clincher over a drained Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-2, 6-1, and broke down in joyful tears.

"It was very emotional for me," said the 24-year-old Mauresmo, who was the highest-ranked player at No. 4 in the event. "I wanted to win that third point, to make sure."

France, a Federation Cup champion only once previously (1997) to 17 times for the U.S., took a 1-0 lead Saturday as Mauresmo won the last five games to beat No. 28 Raymond, 6-4, 6-3.

Shaughnessy, at No. 17 the foremost American, had nothing left Sunday after a two-hour, 20-minute battle in the second match with Mary Pierce resulted in a 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 loss. Shaughnessy nearly wriggled free. She broke through as Pierce served for the match at 5-3, ducked three match points in the 12th game, forced six deuces and a break point in the 13th game before succumbing to Pierce's superior power.

"That could have changed everything if we'd had a first day split," said King, who turned 60 Saturday.

Having a top player also could have made a difference.

Serena and Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles were recovering from injuries, and Jennifer Capriati and Chanda Rubin had declined to play.

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