Excited captain Alicia Molik believes Daria Gavrilova’s inclusion gives Australia a genuine chance to win the Fed Cup for the first time in more than 40 years.
Ruled eligible by the International Tennis Federation only last month, the Russian-born former world junior No.1 has been rushed straight into Australia’s team for next week’s World Group playoff with the USA in Brisbane.
Also boasting one-time US Open champion and French Open runner-up Samantha Stosur in her ranks, Molik has opted for an indoor clay court at Pat Rafter Arena to best utilise her singles spearheads.
Gavrilova, who grew up on the slower surface, and Stosur both showcased their claycourt prowess on Thursday (AEST) by surging into the quarter-finals of the WTA Tour event in Charleston.
Gavrilova welcomed the surface choice and said she couldn’t wait to wear the green and gold for the first time in the prestigious teams’ event.
“I’m a good mover, I enjoy sliding on the clay,” the 22-year-old said in a teleconference after her impressive 6-4 6-0 second-round win over Australian Open quarter-finalist Zhang Shuai.
“I have more time, I should be aggressive. It suits me.”
Gavrilova, currently the world No.37 with a bullet following her charge to the Australian Open fourth round in January, and the 26th-ranked Stosur give Australia two elite singles players for the first time in years.
They will join doubles pair Casey Dellacqua and Arina Rodionova for the playoff on April 16-17, leaving Molik hopeful Australia can make a swift return to the eight-team World Group in 2017.
“I’ve truly believe we’ve been good enough (in recent years) to win the Fed Cup and having Dasha now absolutely bolsters us,” said Molik, pointing out that Ashleigh Barty’s looming comeback to the sport would only further improve the team’s stocks.
Barty, who won the junior Wimbledon crown at 15, is returning to tennis following a short stint playing in the Women’s Big Bash League with Brisbane.
“It’s a really exciting prospect for us if we do make the World Group,” Molik said.
Molik, though, is not underestimating the USA after American captain Mary Joe Fernandez on Thursday named a formidable line-up despite Serena and Venus Williams both being unavailable.
The US team is Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Christina McHale.
Australia, champions seven times, haven’t won the Fed Cup since 1974 when former world No.1 Evonne Goolagong Cawley was dominating.