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The best-of-five competition ends today with reverse singles and doubles.



Published: Sun, July 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The best-of-five competition ends today with reverse singles and doubles.

MOSCOW (AP) -- The United States dropped its opening two matches to defending champion Russia on Saturday, with Wimbledon winner Venus Williams and Mashona Washington losing in the Fed Cup semifinals.

Anastasia Myskina rallied past Williams 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, and Elena Dementieva followed with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Washington in the 29-year-old American's Fed Cup debut.

"I knew we would have two tough days," U.S. captain Zina Garrison said. "But morale in my team is still high and the match is not over yet."

In the other semifinal, France took a 2-0 lead over Spain at Aix-En-Provence, France. Amelie Mauresmo defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-4, 6-3, and Mary Pierce beat Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-4, 6-4.

The best-of-five competition concludes today with reverse singles and doubles. The two semifinal winners play for the title Sept. 17-18.

In playoffs, in which winners advance to the elite group in 2006, it was: Austria 2, Switzerland 0; Belgium 1, Argentina 1; Croatia 1, Germany 1; and Czech Republic 1, Italy 1.

Seeking 18th title

The United States has won the competition 17 times -- more than any other nation -- and been runner-up nine times. Russia reached the final four times before defeating France last season for its first title.

A minute's silence was held before the Russia-U.S. matches to mourn victims of the terror attacks in London.

Williams is the leader of a weakened U.S. team. Sister Serena Williams, the Australian Open champion, and top-ranked Lindsay Davenport are injured. In Sunday's doubles, Williams will team with Corina Morariu against Vera Douchevina and Dinara Safina.

First Fed Cup defeat

Myskina, the 2004 French Open champion, ended Williams' eight-match Fed Cup undefeated streak and sent the American to her first defeat on clay in six Fed Cup matches.

"She played too well today," Williams said. "I tried my best today. I think, normally, I bring a little bit more energy into the match. It was just a tough day."

In the first set, a net cord ball decided the set for Williams. In the second game of the second set, Myskina came back from love-40 to hold serve. Williams then had two double-faults in the fifth game, but fought back four break points before returning long to lose serve. The American broke back immediately to even the set but was broken again in the seventh game.

Myskina served to even the match. The Russian jumped ahead 3-1 in the third set and saved a break point while serving for the match.

"I felt slightly nervous in the opening set -- I was playing against the Wimbledon champion," Myskina said. "But I knew it was emotionally tough for her to play at full strength after winning a Grand Slam title."

Dementieva, the French and U.S. Open runner-up last season, beat Washington 7-5, 6-1 in the third round at Wimbledon last month. On Saturday, Washington took a 5-1 lead in the first set but Demetieva won six straight games to take the set.

"I was so happy for Myskina that I could not concentrate on my game in the beginning," Dementieva said. "It's not that often that I have my team leading by a point before my match."




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