Saturday, March 28, 2020

Ashleigh Barty stars as Australia chase first Fed Cup title in 45 years


Australia will appear to win their first Fed Cup title in 45 years after Ashleigh Barty powered the hosts towards a thrilling 3-2 victory against Belarus in Brisbane.

Barty won both her singles matches before pairing with Samantha Stosur to say the decisive fifth doubles rubber 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 against Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka on Sunday.

It took the world No 9’s Fed Cup winning streak to 14 and offered Stosur, who had moments of brilliance inside the doubles victory, some joy on Pat Rafter Arena after she had lost both singles matches inside the tie.

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They’ll take part in the winner of the France-Romania tie that’s currently locked at 1-1.

Earlier Stosur, that was preferred before higher-ranked Daria Gavrilova, was shocked when given the chance to seal the match a 6-1, 6-1 singles loss to former world One Azarenka.

That followed another clinic from Barty, who swept aside world No 10 Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2 in another commanding performance under per hour in the future from her Ipswich home.

Australia’s last Fed Cup finals appearance is at 1993, while Evonne Goolagong Cawley literally role of spearhead every time they last tasted victory 45 years ago.

An Australian Fed Cup record crowd of 9,554 across both days sat mesmerised as both teams threw everything at one another in the tie.

Barty was ice cool all weekend though, striding calmly onto court with three-year-old niece Lucy in her own arms on Sunday before switching into game mode.

Australian captain Alicia Molik’s decision to keep with Stosur for the of Sunday’s matches would be a brave one, nevertheless the 35-year-old recovered remarkably.

Blown away by Azarenka earlier while in the day – Stosur only held serve once all match – the veteran reset to better her perfect Fed Cup doubles record to 8-0 as a result of some quick hands and assured court craft under immense pressure.

The former US Open champion produced some vintage moments in back-to-back points from 15-30 because of hold and secure an excellent first set.

Momentum swung as soon as they missed an opportunity to break Azarenka’s serve at 3-3, with Stosur immediately broken and Sabalenka forcing a decider.

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Both countries then produced materials inside a compilation of scintillating third-set rallies.

Australia grabbed the earliest break and Barty held firm for just a 4-1 lead.

Stosur then held person to love to discover the hosts within one game striking the winning volley with their third match part of the other game to clinch the tie.

“I cannot have picked two more perfect athletes to contest this final rubber,” Molik said.

“I’m so that very proud of my team.”

Both women will depart for the clay and grass courts of Europe before returning for a November home final inside of a city to be confirmed.

Fed Cup semi-final

Sabalenka bt Stosur 7-5, 5-7, 6-3

Barty bt Azarenka 7-6 (7-2), 6-3

Barty bt Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2

Azarenka bt Stosur 6-1, 6-1

Barty/Stosur bt Azarenka/Sabalenka 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

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