LAS VEGAS (AP) — A pair of Belgium teen-agers and some physical problems weren’t enough to keep Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles from putting the United States into yet another Fed Cup final.
Seles overcame stomach trouble to beat 18-year-old Justine Henin and a limping Davenport followed Wednesday night with a win over 17-year-old Kim Clijsters as the U.S. team advanced to the final for the 25th time in the 38-year history of the event.
Both players will get Thanksgiving Day off to recuperate before returning to the court Friday for the two-day final against Spain.
I'm glad I don't have to play tomorrow,'' said Davenport, who injured a calf muscle in the second set against Clijsters.I’m sure it will be sore.”
Davenport won the clinching match as the U.S. team swept the young Belgium players before about 3,500 fans on the indoor court at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino.
The defending champion American team will be seeking its 17th Fed Cup title against Spain, which has won five of the last nine finals.
I think playing indoors gives us a huge advantage,'' Davenport said.We should be the favorites in the match.”
The two wins in singles made the final doubles match meaningless. But both Americans struggled at times, with Davenport favoring her calf and Seles fighting off stomach trouble.
I didn't feel comfortable being aggressive,'' Seles said after her 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Henin.My goal was just to hit back as many balls as I could.”
Seles spurted to a 5-0 lead in the opening set of the first match and appeared completely in control. But, about the same time, she began experiencing stomach problems that caused her to lose her focus.
Henin came back to tie it at 5-5 and the match went to a tiebreaker, where Seles regained her composure and won the first six points.
I disappeared for a time, but at key points I raised my game,'' Seles said.I didn’t want to go to three sets.”
Neither did Davenport, though she was forced to after faltering in the second set when she had to take an injury timeout to have her calf massaged.
Like Seles, Davenport had to win a tiebreaker to win the first set, then had to come back in the third set to clinch the semifinal win 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 and give the U.S. team a berth in the final.
Davenport was up 2-1 in the second set when she hurt herself, and Clijsters, ranked 18th in the world, won the last three games of the set to pull even. She pumped her fist after clinching the set on a backhand into the net by Davenport, as her Belgian teammates cheered loudly.
Davenport came right back, though, winning the first three games of the deciding set and finally winning the match on a backhand shot that Clijsters had no chance to reach.
U.S. captain Billie Jean King celebrated her 57th birthday with her 17th win in 20 Fed Cup rounds dating to 1965 when she was a playing captain. King, who has headed six Fed Cup teams, is seeking her fourth title as a captain.