Russia beat Israel 4-1 to reach Fed Cup semis

TEL AVIV Sun Feb 3, 2008 4:04pm GMT

1 of 3. Russia's Anna Chakvetadze reacts during her Fed Cup World Group first round tennis match against Israel's Tzipi Obziler in Ramat Hasharon February 3, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Eliana Aponte

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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Defending champions Russia completed a 4-1 victory over Israel in their Fed Cup world group first-round tie after winning all three rubbers on Sunday.

Russia face the winners of the tie between the United States and Germany in the semi-finals on April 26-27. Israel will play to avoid relegation from the world group.

Russian world number seven Anna Chakvetadze secured the tie after seeing off a brave challenge from Israel's Tzipi Obziler 6-4 6-2.

Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina completed the victory by beating Shahar Peer and Obziler in the dead doubles rubber 6-0 1-6 6-4.

Chakvetadze came back from 3-0 down in the first set and shut out the chanting from a hostile home crowd who sensed they might be able to unsettle her.

The Russian was too good for her 34-year-old opponent who was never able to threaten her on the important points.

"I started off slowly but then I managed to get into the match," said Chakvetadze, who was critical of the crowd.

"I think they (the crowd) should be a little more respectful... all we ask that they are a little more quiet during the points."

LOST MOMENTUM

Obziler said she had done her best but was beaten by a better player.

"I lost the momentum after a good start, perhaps I could have done some things better but today proved the difference in standard between us," the Israeli said.

Earlier, Maria Sharapova crushed Peer 6-1 6-1 to give the Russians a 2-1 lead in the tie much to the disappointment of the 5,000 boisterous home fans.

The Israeli number one had no answer to the Australian Open champion's powerful groundstrokes and Sharapova broke Peer six times to win in an hour and 14 minutes.

On Saturday, Sharapova beat Obziler to level the tie after Peer had overcome Dinara Safina.

Sharapova said she was not surprised by the outcome of her match against Peer, ranked 17th in the world.

"I have a good past record against her and I was not surprised... I hit a very powerful flat ball and she is more defensive, so it does not surprise me," the world number five said.

Peer agreed she was beaten by the better player but did not think the match was as one-sided as the scoreline suggested.

"She put real pressure on me from the start and didn't give me a chance to breathe, she won all the important points but it was really tougher than that," Peer said.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley and Alison Wildey)

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