Belgium retains World Group status with 4-0 victory in Italy

GENOA, Italy (AP) -- Belgium retained its place in the Fed Cup World Group for the first time since 2012 on Sunday after beating Italy 4-0.

The visitors were already firmly in control of the playoff after two wins on Saturday and Elise Mertens clinched victory before Belgium completed a whitewash with another triumph in the doubles.

Mertens had eased past Jasmine Paolini in the opening rubber and she also beat Sara Errani in straight sets on Sunday, winning 6-3, 6-1.

Five of the nine games in the first set went to the receiver as both players struggled on their serve, before Mertens got into her stride in the second set.

Mertens returned to the clay court in Genoa almost immediately to join up with Kirsten Flipkens in the doubles.

The pair beat Paolini and Deborah Chiesa 6-1, 6-4.