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FED CUP DAY 1:

Kim Trengove

November 7-2001: Spain d Australia 3-0

Conchita Martinez (ESP) d Alicia Molik (AUS) 36 60 75

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (ESP) d Nicole Pratt (AUS) 36 61 61

Virginia Ruano-Pascual /Gala Leon Garcia (ESP) d Rachel McQuillan /Evie Dominikovic 75 64

Despite Australian singles players, Alicia Molik and Nicole Pratt, beginning each of their matches in convincing fashion, Spain proved too strong for Australia tonight in the Fed Cup Finals being played in Madrid and claimed the Tie three rubbers to love.

Twenty-year-old Alicia Molik was the first to take centre court against experienced contender Conchita Martinez. The lofty South Australian made it clear in the opening set that the Optus Australian Fed Cup Team would be a determined opponent, claiming the first set 6-3 and stunning the parochial Spanish crowd.

Surprised at the Aussie's tenaciousness, Martinez came out firing in the next set to break the powerful Australian serve in the second game. After suffering a slight groin strain from an awkward slide on the red clay, Molik appeared to lose concentration. Sensing something was amiss, the Spaniard ran Molik around the court, dominating the play to claim the second set 60.

With the scoreline tied, both players were determined to make their mark early in the third set. But it was not until the eighth game that Martinez broke through to take a 5-3 lead. Refusing to surrender, Molik staged a valiant comeback but failed to capitalise on some crucial points. The Spaniard was too strong and claimed the match 36 60 75.

A philosophical Molik said after the match, "I'm disappointed I couldn't give Australia a lead today as I had my chances but there is still a long way to go in this competition."

"Gaining some positive results in our other Ties and the results of other Ties will determine whether we can still make the Final on Sunday."

Australia's No.1 singles player, Nicole Pratt, began her match against Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in similar fashion, once again surprising the Spanish team and its supporters. Pratt out-played the Spaniard in the opening set with some amazing passing shots and deft volleys to

give Australia a 63 lead.

But with a sense of deja vu, the feisty Spaniard played herself back into the match to claim the second singles rubber 36 61 61 giving Spain an unassailable 2 rubbers to love lead.

In the doubles, Rachel McQuillan and Evie Dominikovic combined to take on the top doubles pairing of Virginia Ruano-Pascual and Gala Leon Garcia, only to be defeated in a close match 75 64.

"The 3-0 scoreline really doesn't do the performance of our Team any justice," Optus Australian Fed Cup Captain, Lesley Bowrey, said. "They played some great tennis out there tonight and really took it up to the more experienced Spanish side."

"Both Alicia and Nicole stretched their opponents to three sets which I really don't think they were expecting and I am proud of the effort they put in against a side which many are tipping as strong contenders to claim the trophy.

"We will play Germany tomorrow, who also lost today to Belgium and we are confident we can put some scores on the board."