Belgium takes unbeatable lead over US in Fed Cup

Antwerp: Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-7 (10), 6-2, 6-1 to give Belgium an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the United States and a place in the Fed Cup semifinals.

Mattek-Sands gave the U.S. its first set of the weekend when she outlasted Clijsters in the tiebreaker, but the second-ranked Belgian dominated the No. 48 in the next two sets.

“It really feels good to see that 3-0 on the board so soon,” Clijsters said, with still two matches to go in the best-of-five series.

It is the first time in Fed Cup competition that the Americans have lost two ties in a row, after being defeated by Italy in last year’s final. Belgium advances to play the Czech Republic in Charleroi on April 16-17.

Yanina Wickmayer was due to play Melanie Oudin in the second reverse singles later Sunday.

After Mattek-Sands lost to Wickmayer on Saturday, with unforced errors costing her throughout, the American showed aggression and precision from the start Sunday. She served for the set at 5-4 but let Clijsters back in for the tiebreaker. Despite the noise from the 10,000 fans at Sports Palace, she didn’t crumble in a tiebreaker in which both players struggled to win points on serve.

“Against top players, she can play a great game,” Clijsters said. “I was just hoping she would not keep it up.”

The loss of the set roused the fighter in Clijsters and she then took charge, never giving Mattek-Sands a chance in a speedy second set.

In the decider, Clijsters immediately broke and kept up the pressure as errors slipped back in Mattek-Sands’ game.

Bureau Report

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