U.S. gets France in Fed Cup final

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Moscow, Russia (Sports Network) - Veteran American went 3-0 against Belgium this week, including her tie-clinching singles victory Thursday against Elke Clijsters in Fed Cup semifinal action at Olympic Stadium. France, led by world No. 4 and , joined the United States in the final with a 3-2 victory over the host Russians. The U.S. pounded Belgium 4-1, led the 30-year-old Raymond.

The Americans headed into Day 2 needing only one victory in three tries to get past the 2001 champion Belgians. They failed in their first attempt, as Wednesday's hero gave way to 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), pulling the Belgians within 1-2 in the best-of-five battle. Shaughnessy outlasted 17-year-old Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in a marathon three-set rubber here on Wednesday, as the American needed 3 hours, 11 minutes to give the U.S. a 2-0 advantage.

Following Shaughnessy's loss on Thursday, Raymond promptly posted a routine 6-2, 6-1 victory over Clijsters, the younger sister of world No. 2 star , to send the Americans to their record 26th Fed Cup final (17-8). Raymond won five straight games in the second set en route to an uncontested 48-minute win. Elke Clijsters replaced Flipkens in the rubber, as Flipkens was physically and emotionally drained following her tough setback against Shaughnessy here on Wednesday. Flipkens required the attention of a trainer on a couple of occasions on Day 1, and broke down in tears at the conclusion of the bout. Belgian captain Ivo Van Aken made the switch to Elke Clijsters.

In a meaningless doubles rubber, the legendary Martina Navratilova returned to Fed Cup action for the first time since 1995 and improved to a remarkable 38-0 lifetime, including 18-0 in doubles, when she paired with Raymond to dismantle a Belgian duo of Elke Clijsters and Caroline Maes 6-1, 6-4. The victory gave the Pennsylvania native Raymond her perfect mark against the Belgians, as she opened the festivities here on Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-1 shellacking of Callens.

The 47-year-old Navratilova is the oldest player in the 40-year history of the Fed Cup competition.

Both the U.S. and Belgium played without their top stars, as the Williams sisters and are out with injuries, while Belgian stalwarts -Hardenne and made themselves unavailable.

The U.S., currently captained by the legendary Billie Jean King, is seeking its 18th Fed Cup title and first since 2000. The Americans moved to 3-0 all- time versus Belgium.

France advanced via upset, as the powerful Russian team boasted four of the top-13 players in the world.

The French gained an insurmountable 3-1 advantage Thursday when the veteran Pierce outlasted Russian teen 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

A red-hot Mauresmo gave France a short-lived 1-0 lead on Wednesday and moved the French out to a 2-1 edge on Day 2 when she came from behind to beat world No. 7 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-4. Mauresmo whipped Zvonareva in Wednesday's tie-opening rubber, 6-2, 6-2, before Myskina knotted things up for Russia with a three-set victory over Pierce, who is playing her first Fed Cup tennis in six years.

Mauresmo is fresh off last week's runner-up finish to at the season-ending WTA Championships and titled in Philadelphia earlier this month.

Thursday's dead Russia-France doubles rubber resulted in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory for a Russian tandem of Myskina and against a French duo of Stephanie Cohen-Aloro and . Cohen-Aloro replaced Pierce for the doubles, while Myskina replaced , who was surprisingly left out of the Russian singles lineup by captain Shamil Tarpischev, despite the fact that she currently ranks eighth in the world and had been playing some of the best tennis of her career over the last couple of months.

The Americans and French will square off here this weekend, with opening singles on Saturday and reverse singles and a doubles rubber on Sunday.

France will seek its second Fed Cup in its second final, with the title coming in 1997.

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