Argentina advances

TOKYO, APRIL 29. Youthful Argentina advanced to the second round of the Fed Cup women's team tennis tournament on Sunday as 17- year- old Maria Emilia Salerni powered her side to a 4-1 victory over Japan.

Salerni, who won the junior titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year, came from behind to beat 25-year-old Yuka Yoshida 7-5, 6-0 for Argentina's third straight singles win in the best-of-five encounter.

Japan managed to clinch the last singles match through Saori Obata, 23, as her 19-year-old opponent Clarisa Fernandez had to withdraw with an injury to her thigh after the second set with the score reading 2-6, 7-5.

In the final doubles, Salerni combined with Laura Monttalvo to beat the Japanese Duo of Yoshida and Rika Hiraki 6- 4, 6-4.

``To defeat Japan is a very great thing itself,'' Argentina captain Rikardo Rivera said, adding it was his country's sixth Fed Cup victory with the last one three years ago.

He said, ``we felt happy that we were able to come here and we feel happier still that we managed to win.'' Argentina face Germany in the Fed Cup second round away on July 21 and 22.

``I know that every match against Germany will be tough but we will give all we have,'' the captain said. ``I am confident because our players are mostly pretty young and have a bright future.''

Salerni struggled against a spirited Yoshida in the first set, yielding a 3-5 lead to the 25-year-old Japanese on hard clay at the indoor Ariake Colosseum. But, the Argentine star took the next 10 games to win in 80 minutes.

``At first, I felt we were 50-50 in the match. I could win as my concentration and consistency played a key role,'' said Salerni. ``I tried not to give points to my opponent and I hung on to the ball at each and every stroke.''

She said she was fired by the desire to improve her world ranking from the current 118th spot. Yoshida replaced injured Shinobu Asagoe, who was the best player in her squad as Japan's top player and World no. 47 Ai Sugiyama refused to take time off the regular world circuit.

Argentina's World no. 26 Paola Suarez also stayed away.

Asagoe ranked 54th, cramped her right thigh on Saturday when she lost to Fernandez 3-6, 6-4, 8-10 in a marathon three-hour thriller. She was removed from the line-up late on Saturday after suffering from a fever and headache, Japan captain Estuko Kaneshiro said.

``I was desperate but played well up to 5-3 but I could not keep up the momentum,'' said Yoshida, the World's 141st. ``I was too tense to control myself.''

Clean sweep by Australia

ADELAIDE: Australia is hoping to entice Jelena Dokic back into the fold after completing a 5-0 sweep over Austria on Sunday in the first round of the Fed Cup.

Nicole Pratt sealed Australia's victory when she beat Sylvia Plischke 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday then said she would speak to Dokic's father Damir about the prospect of Jelena's possible return.

``I'm going to sit down and talk to her dad and see if I can make him understand the importance of Jelena being a team member because when she's at Fed Cup she's fantastic and it helps her for the rest of the year,'' Pratt said.

``I'm good friends with her, a lot of the team is good friends with her, and it's our goal to get her back playing for Australia. If we want to win the Fed Cup, then we need Jelena playing...we'll welcome her with open arms.''

Dokic announced in January she would turn her back on her adopted country to play under the Yugoslav flag after complaining of unfair treatment by the Australian media.

Dokic and her family moved to Florida in February and the teenager refused to play in this weekend's tie against Austria in Adelaide despite being offered a place in the team. Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash over Austria by winning Sunday's reverse singles and the concluding doubles rubber all in straight sets.

Pratt's win over Plischke gave Australia an unbeatable 3-0 lead. Alicia Molik then made it 4-0 when she beat Marion Maruska 6-2, 6-2 before Rachel McQuillan and Evie Dominikovic teamed up to defeat Maruska and Patricia Wartusch 6-4, 7-5.

Australia will host Switzerland in the second round in July.

Slovakia takes 3-0 lead

BRATISLAVA: Slovakia took an unbeatable 3- 0 lead over Hungary in the Fed Cup world group first round tie on Sunday.

Slovak number one Henrieta Nagyova got off to a bad start for the second day in a row, losing the first set against her Hungarian counterpart Rita Kuti Kis.

But the Slovak squeezed through the rest of the match to win 2-6, 7-6, 7-5 giving her team an unbeatable 3-0 lead over the Hungarians.

Slovakia won the first two matches of the tie on Saturday, when Nagyova also came from behind to beat Aniko Kapros 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 and Daniela Hantuchova beat Kuti Kis in straight sets.

Slovakia faces Russia in its next Fed Cup meeting in July.

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