France up 2-0; Clijsters wins for Belgium

Defending champion France took a 2-0 lead over Germany in the
first round of the Fed Cup on Saturday behind victories by Amelie
Mauresmo and Nathalie Dechy.

Russia, Austria, Argentina and Italy also held 2-0 leads in
their best-of-five series in World Group play.

There were 1-1 splits in three series: United States at
Slovenia, Croatia at Belgium, and Switzerland at Spain.

Doubles and reverse singles are Sunday.

In Amiens, France, Mauresmo eased by Barbara Rittner 6-1, 6-2,
after Dechy struggled to beat Anna Lena Groenefeld 6-7 (4), 6-1,

"I recovered after a difficult start," Dechy said.

In Bree, Belgium, Kim Clijsters played in her hometown and beat
Jelena Kostanic 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. Karolina Sprem of Croatia evened the
score by stopping Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-0.

Belgium, the 2001 champion, is without top-ranked Justine
Henin-Hardenne, who is recovering from an energy-sapping virus.
Clijsters had been sidelined but wore a brace on her left wrist.

"Until three days ago I had not played my backhand for six
weeks," the second-ranked Clijsters said, adding her wrist was
still stiff.

"I know that it wasn't a perfect match ... but I really wanted
this," Clijsters said. "You can train as much as you want, but
it's getting back into match play that counts."

In Portoroz, Slovenia, Venus Williams of the United States
routed Katarina Srebotnik 6-1, 6-2 to even the score after Tina
Pisnik upset Lisa Raymond 7-5, 7-5 on a soggy court.

Williams won 18 of the first 20 points in running up a 5-0 lead.

"The first set was really good, I didn't have many errors,"
Williams said. "I felt very comfortable in my game."

The United States has won the Fed Cup 17 times, more than any
other nation in the tournament's 40-year history. The Americans are
without Serena Williams, who has a knee injury.

In Moscow, Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova won their
opening matches, sending Russia to a 2-0 lead over Australia.

Myskina defeated Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-1 and Kuznetsova made
her Fed Cup debut with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Alicia Molik.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gisela Dulko rewarded the home crowd
by topping Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-4. Paola Suarez won the second match,
defeating Akiko Morigami 6-4, 6-0.

Dulko, 19, was making her Fed Cup debut. Sugiyama had 10 double

"I was surprised at the many unforced errors made by
Sugiyama," Dulko said. "I saw she was nervous from the start, but
then she's not that used to playing on clay.

In St. Poelten, Austria, the hosts came back to win both matches
against 2002 champion Slovakia.

Barbara Schett beat Janette Husarova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, and Barbara
Schwartz downed Ludmila Cervanova 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

In Maglie, Italy, Francesca Schiavone rallied past Barbora
Strycova 5-7, 6-1, 6-0, and Silvia Farina Elia downed Klara
Koukalova 6-3, 7-6 (6) as Italy took a 2-0 lead over the Czech

In Murcia, Spain, the Swiss won the opener when Australian Open
semifinalist Patty Schnyder beat Marta Marrero 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5.
The hosts answered with a victory by Fed Cup veteran Conchita
Martinez, a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 decision over Emmanuelle Gagliardi.

Spain, a five-time Fed Cup champion, lost to Slovakia in the
2002 finals.