VALENCIA, Spain -- American rookie Chanda Rubin stole some of the spotlight with an upset victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, but Spain overcame the United States, 3-2, to capture its third consecutive Federation Cup title yesterday.
After Spain took a 2-0 lead on the first day of the five-match final, Conchita Martinez clinched the victory by defeating U.S. No. 1 Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-3, 6-4. Rubin, who replaced injured Monica Seles, stopped the Spanish singles blitz by beating Sanchez Vicario, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, before a sold-out stadium of 6,000 chanting fans.
"I wanted to prove that I was worthy of the selection to the team," said Rubin, 19, who was selected to the team as an alternate. "I was nervous [Saturday] against Conchita, but today I relaxed and served a lot better. We were all really down after Mary Joe lost, but I had beaten Arantxa earlier this year and wanted to win this one because I was still playing for my country."
The American team had counted on Seles' being healthy enough to lead the team to its first Fed Cup title since 1990, but she told captain Billie Jean King days before the final that a sprained knee and ankle would prevent her from making her first appearance for the United States.
Lindsay Davenport, the other U.S. top gun, opted out of the singles as well because of a lingering back injury, but teamed with Gigi Fernandez to win the doubles match, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), over Virginia Ruano-Pascual and Maria Sanchez Lorenzo, who replaced Martinez and Sanchez Vicario after the final had been clinched.
"It was not a big shock that Monica wasn't coming," said Rubin, who ended the year ranked No. 15. "Billie Jean told me a week ago to be ready to play because Monica and Lindsay weren't 100 percent. I only wish that I could have won my other match so the team would have won, but Conchita always lifts her game when she plays Fed Cup."
After posting poor fall results on the WTA Tour, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario found their form on familiar clay. The Americans had won their previous two rounds on hard courts. However, the Spaniards practiced separately with their respective coaches during the event to avoid the sparks that had flared between the two one month ago when Martinez knocked Sanchez Vicario from the No. 2 ranking.
"My mom cheered for both Conchita and me here," said Sanchez Vicario, who took a hiatus from the WTA Tour this fall and had not won a singles match since September. "It doesn't matter who is ranked higher. In Fed Cup, we are a team because it's special for us to play for our country. I would have liked to play Monica here and beaten Chanda today, but it's been a long year and I'm just very happy to have won it for Spain."
"I'm proud of our team," said King. "I would have liked Monica here because she has never played in a team competition, but we did the best we could with the healthy players we had.
"Chanda did an extraordinary job in her first Fed Cup match and helped herself a lot for the future. Although we didn't win today, I think we set the stage for next year."