BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinal between Australia and Germany will open on Saturday with Samantha Stosur taking on Andrea Petkovic, who is coming off a title-win in Charleston, then Casey Dellacqua will play Angelique Kerber.
Play on Sunday will see the reverse singles, Stosur and Kerber are first then Dellacqua and Petkovic, and will end with Ashleigh Barty and Dellacqua playing Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
The draw was held at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, located on the outskirts of Brisbane, and both teams were given the opportunity to cuddle one of Australia's most famous animals - the koala.
It was an experience that put a few extra smiles on the players' faces - even the Australians found it something new and thrilling.
For a short while holding these docile mammals, which are an endangered species, while kangaroos hopped around the fields at the sanctuary, allowed the teams to relax before the brilliance and excitement of playing for their nations enveloped them for the next two days.
“I’ve never held a koala before so it was something very different for me and I’m sure the Germans were excited to do something like that as were the four of us in the Australian team,” said Stosur.
It’s been a long trip to get to Australia for the Germans but they made it clear they have adapted better compared to when they are in Australia at the start of the year for the circuit. Being Fed Cup they are playing for their team and their nation which sees them focusing faster than on the regular tour.
“We were jet lagged when we were arriving but in Fed Cup that goes quickly, faster than normal,” said Petkovic. “I’m happy playing first in Fed Cup because I lose a lot of energy watching the other girls because I’m very emotional and because I want them to win so badly.
“Playing Sam, well, the last time I played her I lost. She played such a great match. I think the key will be that I step into the court more and not let her push me back behind the baseline. She serves so well and she has heavy shots so it’s going to be really tough, it’s going to be a case of who feels better on the day.”
Dellacqua is expecting the form she has shown in the first quarter of the year will be important for her confidence as she plays Kerber, a fellow lefty. It will be a first-time meeting between them.
“She’s been a top ten player for numerous years and she’s a very tough opponent so I’ve got to do what I do well and draw on the confidence I have from playing all those matches and put it on the line,” said Dellacqua.
“I’m excited about playing singles and doubles and wouldn’t want it any other way, but to be busy. Really looking forward to the opportunity to play for my country in a semifinal and play for something this weekend instead of always playing relegation ties. It’s exciting.”
Kerber is of the same mindset and is eager to take on the Aussie and put the pressure on her but knows full well that the crowd will be working hard to lift Dellacqua.
“It will be a tough match,” she said. “(Dellacqua) played very well at the Australian Open and she’s at home. It will not be easy, and she’s a lefty like me. I will just try to play my game and try to be ready and have fun… and try to take the emotion (support) from my team.”
Both nations are looking to end droughts that stretch back more than two decades. The last time Australia reached the final for the Fed Cup was in 1993 while Germany was last in the final the year before.
“I think about that but more in terms of what a great opportunity it is now for the team to make their own piece of history,” said Aussie captain Alicia Molik.
“Anything from this point forward is a bonus because it’s been quite a while now since we reached the semis. The team looks at it that way as well. They’ve had a great week's practice; it’s been a great level.”
The German captain Barbara Rittner on the other hand is not focusing on the time gap. She said: “I read about it but I’m not really think about it. I was lucky to be in this team in 1992 with Steffi Graf and Anke Huber and now we have the chance to go to the final again which makes us proud already.
“We had a great quarterfinal beating a strong Slovak team and now we’re here in Australia, we went a long way to be able to play here; we will give everything to reach the final.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Sam Stosur (AUS) v Andrea Petkovic (GER)
R2: Casey Dellacqua (AUS) v Angelique Kerber (GER)
R3: Sam Stosur (AUS) v Angelique Kerber (GER)
R4: Casey Dellacqua (AUS) v Andrea Petkovic (GER)
R5: Ashleigh Barty/Casey Dellacqua (AUS) v Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Alicia Molik (AUS) - 18/04/2014
Andrea Petkovic (GER) - 18/04/2014
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 18/04/2014
Sam Stosur (AUS) - 18/04/2014