Sharapova shines as China eye semi-finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Maria Sharapova finally got her Fed Cup career off the ground when she pulled defending champions Russia level against Israel in their quarter-ginal.

Updated: February 04, 2008 11:22 IST
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Maria Sharapova finally got her Fed Cup career off the ground when she pulled defending champions Russia level against Israel in their World Group quarter-final.

The newly crowned Australian Open champion blitzed world number 81 Tzipi Obziler 6-0, 6-4 at Ramat Hasharon after team-mate Dinara Safina had lost the first rubber against top Israeli player Shahar Peer, going down 0-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday.

"It was very weird to come on court being down one love," said Sharapova.

"Usually when I play a match both players start the match at the same level, so this was different but I'm glad it's over and I can't wait for tomorrow's match versus Shahar."

The reverse singles will see Sharapova take on Peer, Safina playing against Obziler, as well as the doubles tie.

In Beijing, China opened up a 2-0 lead over a weakened France side to put themselves just one rubber away from a first ever appearance in the semi-finals.

China need only to win one more match from the two reverse singles and the doubles on Sunday to clinch a place in the last four against Spain or Italy as they look for a morale-boosting victory on home soil ahead of the Olympics.

China's number one Li Na beat 18-year-old Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-1 in the first rubber before number two Peng Shuai then ran out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Virginie Razzano.

Li who is back from a rib injury that sidelined her for most of last year, said she was nervous at the start against Cornet, who is making her Fed Cup debut.

"I made mistakes at the start but after that it was pretty comfortable," she said. She predicts it could also be comfortable for China today.

"I think China has the best chance ever to get into the last four. Against France, you can't take anything for granted. But Sunday could be our big day."

France came into the match without their top three - Amelie Mauresmo, Marion Bartoli and Tatiana Golovin - but captain Georges Goven said that all was not lost.

"We can still win three out of three games," he said. "I am not saying it is easy, but it is not impossible."

Host United States, the tournament's most successful country with 17 titles but without a championship since 2000, struggled to a 1-1 start with Germany as 19-year-old Sabine Lisicki upset US veteran Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 7-5.

Davenport, who took time off last year to have her first child, lost for only the third time in 28 Fed Cup singles matches but Ashley Harkleroad pulled the Americans level by defeating Tatiana Malek 6-1, 6-3.

In the World Group's other tie yesterday, Italy, last year's beaten finalists, slumped to 2-0 down against Spain in Naples.

Nuria Llagostera Vives enjoyed a 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-2 win over Francesca Schiavone before Anabel Medina Garrigues eased past Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-3.

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  • Tennis
  • Andy Roddick
  • Lukas Dlouhy
  • Rohan Bopanna
  • Leander Paes
  • Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi
  • Maria Sharapova

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