Ukraine sweep Australia in Fed Cup singles

Australia’s women remain in the Fed Cup wilderness for another year after Ukraine secured a clean sweep of the singles rubbers to win their World Group II playoff tie in Kharkiv.

The hosts took a 2-0 advantage into Sunday’s rubbers after Lesia Tsurenko defeated Daria Gavrilova and world No.13 Elina Svitolina accounted for Ash Barty the previous day after dropping the first set.

Svitolina then backed it up against close friend Gavrilova, defeating the world No.26 in straight sets 6-3 6-2. That victory gave Ukraine an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie but under tournament rules the doubles rubber was still played.

Barty teamed up with Casey Dellacqua to earn a consolation win for Australia, defeating Nadiia Kichenok and Olga Savchuk 6-2 2-6 10-8. Barty’s reverse singles match against Tsurenko was not required.

“I couldn’t have asked for more from Casey and Ash at the end,” team captain Alicia Molik said.

“But I have to admire the Ukraine team, they’re great competitors and fighters which is why they’re such good players.”

Australia were up against it in Kharkiv, dealing with the absence of Samantha Stosur, who withdrew from the tie to focus on early-season tournaments in the Middle East.

Molik said she was hopeful Stosur would return for Australia’s next tie – in April against an opponent yet to be determined – but praised her young team, adding that there were several other players banging down the door to be considered for selection.

“I’m hoping Sam will play in April,” she said. “It’s a conversation yet to be had.”

“I know the Fed Cup means a lot to her. I’d love to see her playing but it’s great to see the youth coming through.

“Watching Ash on Saturday – that was about as exciting as tennis gets. For Ash it’s about being able to sustain that for longer periods and these are the players – top 10 players, top 20 players – she should be looking to beat.”

In other Fed Cup action, Belarus thrashed the Netherlands 4-1 in their World Group tie in Minsk despite being without two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.

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