Author`s name Alex Naumov

Sharapova to lead Russia against Israel

World number five Maria Sharapova will lead champions Russia in next month's Fed Cup first round tie against Israel in Tel Aviv.

In the absence of world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova for personal reasons, Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev also named world number six Anna Chakvetadze, 16th-ranked Dinara Safina, Elena Vesnina (55) and doubles specialist Elena Likhovtseva.

Tarpishchev said he would select the four players for the Feb. 2-3 tie during his team's training camp in Israel, Reuters reports.

Maria Sharapova broke early in each set, turning in a sterling performance to end the nearly seven-month win streak of Justine Henin 6-4, 6-0 for a place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The Russian fifth seed, two times a Grand Slam champion, handed world number one Henin her first loss since Wimbledon. The victory in one hour, 38 minutes was only the third for Sharapova in nine meetings.

The women last met at the WTA season finals in Madrid, Henin winning a marathon final in three hours, 20 minutes. Henin's winning run ended at 33 matches.

Sharapova next faces Jelena Jankovic, who claimed her third career Grand Slam semi as the dismantled petulant holder Serena Williams 6-3, 6-4 in a dazzling display.

Sharapova broke in the second game of each set for 2-0 leads as Henin had trouble with the Russian's all-court attack.
The Russian lifted the first set after 61 minutes by winning a 10-minute game comprising four deuces on her fourth set point, a missed volley by Henin.

The scenario for the second set was similar, with Sharapova raising her level to cut off any attempt at redemption from the Belgian, DPA reports.

Photo: AP

Source: agencies