Doubles victory gives US berth in Fed Cup semis

Teenager Melanie Oudin beat Betina Jozami 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 to lead the United States' rally in a 3-2 Fed Cup win over Argentina on Sunday.

updated: February 09, 2009 12:36 IST
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Surprise, Arizona:

Teenager Melanie Oudin beat Betina Jozami 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 to lead the United States' rally in a 3-2 Fed Cup win over Argentina on Sunday.

Liezel Huber, born in South Africa but a US citizen since July 2007, then teamed with Julie Ditty to beat Jozami and Gisela Dulko 6-2, 6-3 to give the United States the victory.

Huber and her usual partner - Cara Black of Zimbabwe - are the No. 1 ranked doubles team in the world. After the match, Huber took the American flag and paraded it around the court.

The triumph at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex in chilly suburban Phoenix sends the United States into a semi-finals matchup against the Czech Republic. Defending champion Russia will face Italy in the other semi-final.

Argentina had a 2-1 lead after Dulko defeated Craybas 6-1, 6-3 in a meeting of the top two players in the competition.

That left everything on the shoulders of 17-year-old Oudin, who turned pro only last year and is ranked 151st in the world.

"She really dug deep," U.S. team captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "For someone so young playing in their first Fed Cup when it's all on the line there _ she had to win to stay in it _ she really came through."

Oudin acknowledged that she felt the pressure of having the team's fate left up to her.

"I think that going into the match I was thinking about it a little bit too much and that's why I don't think I started off too well," she said. "But after the first set, I mean I knew I could beat her and I knew I could play better than that."

Oudin's victory was interrupted by a 30-minute rain delay. She was up 4-0 in the second set when the delay came.

When play resumed, the second set ended with a double-fault by the 20-year-old Jozami.

Oudin lost the first two games of the last set, then dominated the next six. Through it all, she kept her and the bundled-up pro-USA crowd's attention by yelling to herself after virtually every shot.

Two of the games ended when Jozami, ranked 134th in the world, couldn't finish off with her trademark drop shots at the net.

"She was obviously better than me," Jozami said before quickly returning to the court for the deciding doubles match. "I don't know how to explain it. I couldn't come back like happened in the first set."

The United States has won 17 Fed Cup titles but none since 2000. Argentina has never won a Fed Cup but has been to the semi-finals twice.

Fernandez invited Serena and Venus Williams to participate but the sisters declined, citing scheduling difficulties. The semi-finals will be played, probably on clay, April 25-26 in the Czech Republic.