BRUSSELS: World No. 2 Kim Clijsters and substitute Eva Callens helped Belgium to a 5-0 sweep of its Fed Cup tie against Austria yesterday, sending the 2001 champion into the quarter-finals.
Belgium will face defending champion Slovakia, which recovered from a slow start to oust Germany. The Slovaks had an unbeatable 3-1 lead ahead of the concluding doubles.
In other matches, France crushed Colombia 5-0; Russia breezed past Croatia 4-1; Italy edged Sweden 3-2; Spain beat Australia 3-2; and the United States was 2-0 up against the Czech Republic ahead of the reverse singles.
On Saturday, Slovenia beat Argentina 3-2.
Leading 2-0 after the opening day’s singles, Belgium’s victory was never in doubt as Clijsters, playing in front of a partisan crowd of 4,500 in her home-town of Bree, trounced 76th-ranked Patricia Wartusch 6-2, 6-2 to give Belgium the decisive point in the best-of-five tie.
Using the precision and determination that lifted her to No. 2 in the WTA rankings, Clijsters disposed of Wartusch in just 51 minutes, looking back at her best after a lackluster performance against Evelyn Fauth on Saturday.
“I’m much happier now,’’ Clijsters said. “I played better and to get the vital third point is very special.’’
Clijsters than teamed up with Callens to beat Sybille Bammer and Yvonne Meusburger 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles.
Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne led Belgium to the Fed Cup title two years ago.
In Tarragona, Spain, Conchita Martinez crushed Nicole Pratt 6-0, 6-2 and Magui Serna defeated Alicia Molik 6-4, 6-1 to give the Spaniards an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Australia.
A day after shoulder pain caused her to miss a match against Molik, Martinez showed no signs of distress as she displayed a strong baseline game and rare but accurate drop shots.
Serna, who beat Molik in three sets last Sunday at the Budapest GP, had an easier-than-expected time in this match.
Molik and Rennae Stubbs beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the meaningless doubles match.
Spain has won the Fed Cup title five times. It lost on home turf to Slovakia in last year’s finals.
Spain goes up against France in the July 19-20 quarterfinals.
The French team won its tie against Colombia in Andrezieux-Boutheon, conceding just one set.
Amelie Mauresmo secured the quarter-final spot by defeating Colombia’s Fabiola Zuluaga 6-4, 6-4. Nathalie Dechy later dominated Rommy Farah 6-2, 6-2.
Finally, in the doubles, Virginie Razzano and Emilie Loit downed Farah and 16-year-old Carolina Escamilla, 6-1, 6-1, to complete the rout. – AP