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Monday, July 9, 2007
Russia to play Fed Cup semifinal minus Sharapova


MOSCOW -- Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Russian team's Fed Cup semifinal tie against the United States, apparently because of injury.

"She said she is injured, so she will not play," Russia Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev said on Monday.

Sharapova, who was soundly beaten by eventual champion Venus Williams in the fourth round of Wimbledon, has been suffering from a persistent shoulder injury since April.

The U.S. Open champion and world's second-ranked player will be replaced by world No. 58 Elena Vesnina for the July 14-15 tie in Vermont.

The defending champions could also lose world No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 2004 U.S. Open champion has a nagging shoulder injury of her own.

"Kuznetsova is a long shot. If her shoulder improves in the next couple of days then she'll play," said Tarpishchev, who named 66th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva as an alternate.

Kudryavtseva, 19, took Venus Williams to three sets in their first-round encounter at Wimbledon before losing 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Nadia Petrova and Anna Chakvetadze, ranked in the top 10 in the world, make up the rest of the Russian team.

Venus and her sister, Serena Williams, will lead the U.S. team along with Lisa Raymond and Vania King.