Brisbane throws hat in ring for Fed Cup semi
BRISBANE'S Pat Rafter Arena will be put forward as a venue for a Fed Cup semi-final in which the Ash Barty-powered team will step up their bid to end Australia's 45-year drought in the women's tennis competition.
A commanding Barty won all six sets she played in two singles matches and one doubles encounter as Australia took a 3-2 decision from their Fed Cup tie against the United States at the weekend to progress to the semi-finals for the first time since 2014.
Barty's mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley was in the last Australian team to win the Fed Cup in 1974 and Australia will have the home advantage in an Easter semi-final against Belarus, 4-0 winners over Germany.
"It's been a long time, hasn't it?,'' Barty said from Asheville, North Carolina.
"We are still alive and we dare to dream. We are getting our teeth stuck into the competition.''
Barty's commanding 6-4 6-1 win over 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys in the third rubber confirmed what a factor she now is against the elite she will meet during a four-tournament hardcourt swing which starts this week in Doha.
With the tie later locked 2-all, Barty and fellow Queenslander Priscilla Hon secured a 6-4 7-5 doubles defeat of Americans Danielle Collins and Nicole Melichar.
"Fed Cup are very special weeks and I'm happy to have played some of my best tennis today,'' Barty said.
"I said to Pri, to all the girls after the match, 'How good is Fed Cup? How good is it playing for Australia?'. These are the moments you remember for the rest of your life.''
Tennis Queensland CEO Mark Handley said details about the semi-final were yet to be circulated to state associations, but TQ would be bidding to host the April 20-21 tie.
"It sounds good to us - all three Queenslanders, Ash, Priscilla and Kim (Birrell), played in this tie and with any luck we can host the semi-final,'' Handley said.
Australia will likely start as rankings underdogs if Belarus field this week's team of Aryna Sabalenka, ranked ninth, world No.33 Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
Hon, 20, had been given 36 hours notice by captain Alicia Molik that she would be playing her first Fed Cup match with a first-time doubles partner, albeit one she knew well as a Brisbane practice partner.
"It doesn't really matter where the tie is if it's in Australia but it would amazing to have it in Brisbane,'' Hon said.
"I was born there and played there my whole life, so to play in front of a home crowd would be great.''
Molik had drafted Daria Gavrilova in to replace teammate Birrell for the fourth rubber but she took a 6-1 3-6 6-2 loss to Collins.
Molik would not say whether the tie would be played on hardcourt, the best surface for team mainstay Barty.