TOKYO, April 27, 2008 (AFP)
Former world number one Amelie Mauresmo outclassed Ai Sugiyama to lead France to a easy win over Japan and secure a return to the Fed Cup World Group on Sunday.
The 2006 Wimbledon champion needed only 74 minutes to secure a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 victory over the former world doubles number one in the best-of-five contest.
In the second singles dead rubber, Virginie Razzano defeated substitute player Aiko Nakamura 6-4, 6-4 to make it 4-0.
Japan saved some face as Sugiyama teamed up with Ayumi Morita to beat Nathalie Dechy and Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-3 in the doubles match to elude a whitewash.
"Obviously I'm happy to win this tie. It's very important to us, to me and to the whole team," said Mauresmo.
Mauresmo, who has never lost to Sugiyama in their previous eight encounters on the tour giving only two sets, was never in trouble, although she was once tied at 4-all in the second set.
"I'm very, very satisfied with the way I played. Right from the beginning I really controlled the points and I was able to read her game pretty well and really make the difference with my serve," said Mauresmo.
"I know from the baseline I was able to move her round. I'm just happy. I think it was a good match."
Meanwhile, Razzano appeared surprised by an unexpected tough challenge from Nakamura, ranked 82nd against her 28th.
"I was very surprised, because she (Nakamura) hit a strong forehand and she didn't make errors. It was maybe 100 percent, a positive forehand. It's her best shot," said Razzano after the 86-minute match.
"I tried to stay in my game, because it was very important to keep my game, and tried to play better. It was a very good surprise for me, because I think she played a very good match today."
On Saturday, Mauresmo overwhelmed up-and-coming teenager Morita 6-0, 6-2, while Japan Open champion Razzano fended off a late challenge by Sugiyama 6-1, 7-5.
France also beat Japan 5-0 last year in Limoges, France. In eight Fed Cup meetings they have only lost once to Japan, in 1973.
France were in the relegation play-offs after surprisingly going down 3-2 to China in February. Mauresmo was not playing in that tie.



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