The United States was without two of the best players in women's tennis for the Fed Cup against Russia, and it showed.
The defending champion Russians completed a 4-1 victory in Moscow and will play for the title at France on Sept. 17-18. The French reached the final for the third straight year, defeating visiting Spain, 3-1, in Aix-En-Provence in a rain-shortened semifinal.
The Americans needed to scramble in their semifinal because of injuries to Australian Open champion Serena Williams and top-ranked Lindsay Davenport.
"It was a tough situation," U.S. captain Zina Garrison said. "We knew it was going to be tough when we came in. And we tried to repair as much as we could, but we came up short."
The United States has won the Fed Cup 17 times -- more than any other nation -- but has not won a title since 2000.
The Americans began the day down 2-0 in the best-of-five competition on indoor clay at Olympic Stadium, and Wimbledon champion Venus Williams kept her team alive by downing Elena Dementieva, 6-1, 6-2, in reverse singles. Russia then clinched its spot in the final when Anastasia Myskina beat Jill Craybas, 6-2, 6-4.
Amelie Mauresmo helped France reach the Fed Cup final by defeating Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives, 6-3, 6-1, to give her country an unbeatable lead.
Mauresmo, a Wimbledon semifinalist, put France ahead, 3-0, in the Fed Cup semis. In the second reverse singles, Arantxa Parra-Santonja beat Severine Beltrame, 6-4, 6-4, to give Spain a point. . . .
French Open champion Rafael Nadal captured his seventh title of the year yesterday, overcoming a sluggish start to beat Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the Swedish Open final in Bastad. . . .
Greg Rusedski successfully defended his title in the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, beating Vince Spadea, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-4, on his seventh match point in Newport, R.I.
The final game lasted 22 points.
* COLLEGE BASEBALL: Longtime Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson was hired as the new coach at Oklahoma, succeeding Larry Cochell, who resigned last season after using a racial slur during off-camera interviews.
The 59-year-old Stephenson, who ranks second in Division I career victories, returns to the program for which he was a recruiting coordinator and hitting instructor for five seasons in the 1970s.
Cochell, who won more than 500 games and the 1994 College World Series title in 14 seasons at Oklahoma, resigned May 1 after using a racial slur during interviews with two ESPN reporters before a game.
-- From News Services