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Russia, Italy in semifinals

MOSCOW: Defending champion Russia thrashed China 5-0 on Sunday to book a Fed Cup semifinal against Italy in a repeat of the 2007 final after the Italians dispatched France in Orleans.

The Russians have dominated the tournament in recent years and on current form look set for their fifth title in the past six years after Anna Chakvetadze cruised past Yan Zi 6-1, 6-2 for the decisive third point before debutant teen Alisa Kleibanova crushed Tian-Tian Sun 6-1, 6-1.

Star pair Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova completed the whitewash with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 doubles success over Yan Zi and Tian-Tian Sun.

Italy, meanwhile, reached its third semifinal in four years after Flavia Pennetta defeated Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2. France, champion in 2003 and runner-up in both the following years, slumped to its third opening round loss since 2005 after Pennetta saw off former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday in a bad-tempered three-setter. Pennetta won 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 but only after hurling insults at the umpire over a line call that went against her.

Mauresmo missed a match point thereafter and the French effort went downhill. The Italians will host Russia on April 25-26.

The Czech Republic also moved into the semifinals for the first time in 12 years after establishing a winning 3-1 lead over fellow five-time champion Spain. Petra Kvitova saw off Nuria Llagostera 6-4, 7-5 and Lucie Safarova moved past Carla Suarez 6-4, 6-3 .

The results: World Group I: In Moscow: Russia 5 bt China 0 (Anna Chakvetadze bt Yan Zi 6-1, 6-2; Alisa Kleibanova bt Sun Tian-Tian 6-1, 6-1; Elena Dementieva / Svetlana Kuznetsova bt Yan Zi and Tian-Tian Sun 1-6, 6-4, 6-4).

At Brno: Czech Republic 4 bt Spain 1 (Petra Kvitova bt Nuria Llagostera 6-4, 7-5; Lucie Safarova bt Carla Suarez 6-4, 6-3; Iveta Benesova / Kveta Peschkeova bt Maria Jose Martinez / Lourdes Dominguez 6-4, 6-2; Nuria Llagostera bt Iveta Benesova 1-6, 6-1, 6-4).

At Orleans: Italy 4 vs France 0 (Sara Errani bt Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-4; Flavia Pennetta bt Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2; Francesca Schiavone bt Alize Cornet 6-1, 2-6, 8-6; Flavia Pennetta bt Amelie Mauresmo 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-4).

At Surprise (Arizona): United States 1 vs Argentina 1 (Jill Craybas bt Betina Jozami 6-2, 6-1; Melanie Oudin lost to Gisela Dulko 2-6, 5-7).

World Group II: At Belgrade: Serbia 3 vs Japan 0 (Ana Ivanovic bt Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-4; Jelena Jankovic bt Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-0; Jelena Jankovic bt Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2).

At Kharkiv: Ukraine 1 vs Israel 2 (Kateryna Bondarenko lost to Shahar Peer 3-6, 7-6(6), 3-6); Alona Bondarenko lost to Shahar Peer 6-4, 5-7, 4-6).

At Bratislava: Slovakia 3 vs Belgium 0 (Dominika Cibulkova bt Flipkens 7-6(4), 6-1, Daniela Hantuchova bt Yanina Wickmayer 7-6(2), 6-3, Cibulkova bt Wickmayer 6-0, 6-3).

At Zurich: Switzerland 2 vs Germany 1 (Patty Schnyder bt Anna-Lena Groenefeld 7-6(0), 6-3; Timea Bacsinszky lost to Sabine Lisicki 0-6, 4-6. Schnyder bt Sabine Lisicki 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1). — Agencies

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