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AUSBOY
Apr 29th, 2002, 12:42 AM
Holders Belgium advance to Fed Cup quarters

Monday, 29 April, 2002

PARIS, April 28 AFP - Holders Belgium clinched its place in the quarter-finals of the Fed Cup here today beating Australia 3-2 in their World Group first round clash.

It will now take on Italy, who beat Sweden, for a place in the semi-finals, while France saw off Argentina to set up a last eight clash against Slovakia, who beat Switzerland. Elsewhere, Germany edged past Russia to book a date with Spain who easily defeated Hungary, while Croatia saw off the Czech Republic and will now take on Austria, who eliminated the United States.

In Brussels, last year's Wimbledon runner-up Justine Henin wrapped up victory for the Belgians, defeating Australia's Alicia Molik 6-2 6-1 in just under an hour.
Australia had started the day needing to mount a fightback to win the best-of-five rubber tie after going 2-0 down following Saturday's opening singles.
Nicole Pratt gave it a glimmer of hope early on when she defeated Belgium's Els Callens 6-2 6-4, but Henin had too much class for Molik in the fourth rubber.
Despite the defeat, Australian captain Evonne Goolagong Cawley said she was proud of her team's efforts.

"We knew it would be tough to play this team especially as they are the reigning Fed Cup champions," she said. "But our girls have tried their hearts out and should leave Belgium knowing that they have done their country proud."

At least Australia had the consolation of winning the doubles when Pratt and Rennae Stubbs beat Callens and Laurence Courtois. The Aussie pair had won the first set 7-6 and were awarded the rubber when rain prevented any further play on the clay courts of the Royal Leopold Club.

Earlier, Belgium's world number three Kim Clijsters had been ruled out of the final day's play after damaging a shoulder. In Buenos Aires, French skipper Guy Forget took a gamble and it paid off handsomely when Natalie Dechy beat Mariana Diaz-Oliva 6-2 6-3 to give the team a winning margin against Argentina.
After the two teams were locked 1-1 overnight, Amelie Mauresmo beat Paola Suarez 6-4 6-3 before Forget decided to replace Sandrine Testud with Dechy.

"I chose Nathalie because she was fresher than Sandrine who didn't play well on Saturday (when she lost to Suarez)," explained Forget. Italy was the most convincing winners of the weekend whitewashing Sweden 5-0 in Milan while, in Almeria, Aranxta Sanchez Vicario became the most successful player in Fed Cup history as her two singles wins helped Spain to a 4-1 win over Hungary.

Sanchez-Vicario now has 47 victories passing the old mark of Helena Sukova, of the Czech Republic, who won 45.
In Dresden, last year's beaten finalists Russia lost 3-2 to Germany with the doubles proving decisive with Barbara Rittner and Mariene Weingartner beating Elena Dementieva and Anastasia Myskina 7-6 6-2. In Bol, it was just as tight with Croatia edging the Czechs 3-2 - once again, the final doubles rubber making the difference as Jelena Kostanic teamed up with Iva Majoli to defeat Iveta Benesova and Eva Birnerova 6-1 6-2 to reach the last eight.