PORTOROZ, Slovenia -- Venus Williams is playing like a major champion these days.
Williams won her seventh straight match yesterday, teaming with Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova to lead the United States past Slovenia, 4-1, for a berth in the Fed Cup quarterfinals.
After taking just one point in the first two games against Tina Pisnik, Williams won 12 of the last 14 games in a 6-3, 6-1 victory. That gave the Americans a 2-1 lead.
"I didn't get discouraged," Williams said. "I had to settle in and increasingly get my power in. I also started coming to the net more."
Raymond clinched victory in the five-match series by rallying to defeat Katarina Srebotnik, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, for a 3-1 edge. Then Raymond and the 47-year-old Navratilova capped the weekend with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 win over Srebotnik and Tina Krizan.
In the quarterfinals July 10-11, first-year captain Zina Garrison and the US will play at Austria, which eliminated Slovakia, 3-2. In 2002, Austria beat the United States in the first round after Jennifer Capriati was kicked off the team by then-captain Billie Jean King.
The US has won the Fed Cup 17 times, more than any other nation in the event's 40-year history. Last year, the Americans lost the final, 4-1, to France. The most recent US Fed Cup title came in 2000.
Yesterday's victory also assured the Americans of being in the World Group 1 next year, when the competition switches to a format similar to the Davis Cup.
In other series, it was Russia 4, Australia 1; France 5, Germany 0; Spain 3, Switzerland 2; Belgium 3, Croatia 2; and Argentina 4, Japan 1. Italy led the visiting Czech Republic, 2-1, when play was postponed because of rain until today.
The other quarterfinal matchups are Belgium vs. Spain, Russia vs. Argentina, and France vs. Italy or Czech Republic.
Williams is coming off her first tournament title in 14 months, winning on clay at Charleston, S.C., last weekend. Last spring, she strained an abdominal muscle, an injury that hampered her until she cut last season short in July.
Now, though, she's been playing brilliantly and could work her way into contention at the French Open, which starts May 24. She's won Wimbledon and the US Open twice each, but no majors since 2001.
At the start yesterday, Williams appeared bothered by the swirling wind on a sunny day. But once she found her range, Williams was relentless.