Captain Alicia Molik says there’s no danger of Australian players ever taking the Fed Cup for granted as they prepare to face a United States team without the Williams sisters this weekend.
Australia takes on the US in their World Group playoff tie on Saturday and Sunday on a temporary clay surface installed at Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena.
The Americans have brought a formidable team but are without their three highest-ranked singles players – Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens – who were all unable to commit to the tournament.
Molik, who has Sam Stosur, Daria Gavrilova, Casey Dellacqua and Arina Rodionova at her disposal, says the value placed on the Fed Cup differs from nation to nation but few take it as seriously as Australia.
“The tradition starts young. When you learn about all the qualities of being an Australian, when that’s instilled at a young age, it’s something you always aspire to do,” she said.
“We’re fortunate in Australia to have our best players wanting to play and put their hand up at all times to represent their country.
“In Serena and Venus’s case, Olympics is a big goal for them, they have (already) qualified.
“The US has the luxury, they have a lot of top players, but I think it just really points out that we here in Australia have players who are really commited to our country.”
The still-strong US team consists of Madison Keys (world No.22), Coco Vandeweghe (36), Christina McHale (57) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (89).
American captain Mary Joe Fernandez admitted it’s not easy to guarantee the best players will take part under the current Fed Cup format – particularly in an Olympic year, and at a time when most players map out their yearly plans well in advance.
“We didn’t find out we were coming to Australia until the second week of February,” Fernandez said.
“It’s not the most convenient thing to do, come to Australia when everyone’s heading to Europe or in the States.
“But when you take pride in your country and the significance of the event is huge, you go anywhere.”
For Russian-born Gavrilova, who only became eligible to play for Australia last month, the opportunity to represent her adopted country for the first time means everything.
“I’m super excited,” she said.
“I’m a bit nervous but the whole team has been super supportive.
“I think we’re a great team and all good friends. It’s going to be a great weekend.”
The draw will be conducted on Friday.