Alicia Molik launched an impassioned defence of Samantha Stosur after her defeat to American substitute Coco Vandeweghe capped off a horrendous Fed Cup tie for Australia.
Vandeweghe’s 2-6 7-5 6-4 victory over Stosur in Sunday’s opening reverse singles match ensured the United States will return to the eight-nation World Group next year with a 4-0 whitewash.
It also continued Stosur’s history of capitulations on home soil – and particularly at her home state venue, Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena, where a $100,000 Italian clay court was installed by Tennis Australia to allow the country’s top-ranked singles player the luxury of competing on her preferred surface.
That investment provided Stosur and the Australian team with little actual advantage, with the Americans clearly better in the key moments – even without their top three ranked players, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens, who all failed to commit to the tie.
The pressure was all on the 2011 US Open champion, who needed to beat world No.36 Vandeweghe to keep Australia’s faint Fed Cup hopes alive, but team captain Molik moved to reassure a tearful Stosur after the loss.
“I’d be lying if I said there’s not a lot riding on Sam’s shoulders all the time,” Molik said.
“But the way she handles it every single time she plays for her country is something to be admired.”
Australia has not won the Fed Cup since 1974 and now cannot hope to do so until 2018 at the earliest.
“We were playing good enough, I think, to win this tie,” Molik said.
“It’s a lost opportunity because we felt really ready to get back to the World Group next year.”
Stosur had been scheduled to take on Madison Keys, who easily swept aside Daria Gavrilova on day one.
But the American No.1 was withdrawn for a fresh Vandeweghe – a move Molik insisted didn’t catch the Australian team by surprise.
Like she did against Christina McHale on Saturday, Stosur started strongly but as soon as victory beckoned, her nerves appeared to creep in and she began to disintegrate.
“It’s pretty obvious my record here’s not that great. What can you do?” said Stosur, who has won just four of her 14 matches in Brisbane.
“Even though you’re at your home stadium and everything else, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”
Vandeweghe paid tribute to Stosur following her win, describing her as a “phenomenal” player who she enjoys facing because it brings the best out of her.
She now has a 5-1 career record over Stosur.
Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands completed the rout for the US, winning 6-1 6-4 in the doubles dead rubber against Gavrilova and substitute Arina Rodionova.