Australia is waiting anxiously to see who they play in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Play-offs, chasing a place in the World Group for the first time since 2004.
The tie against Spain went right down to the wire - the deciding doubles rubber, in fact - and it was up to Rennae Stubbs and Samantha Stosur to make sure the home side had a spot in the play-off draw.
The Aussie pair were incredibly convincing in their win over Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez to record the 3-2 final result.
Stosur takes headlines
This was Stosur’s weekend. The world No. 11 spearheaded her nation to victory as she won all three rubbers she was involved in – the more she played the better she got.
The first day of the tie had the teams all square but if one side had the opportunity to be ahead it was Spain.
It all hinged on the opening match between Stosur and Martinez Sanchez – specifically, the first game of the second set. The Spaniard had taken the first set and had Stosur at 0-40, three break points. Both teams acknowledged that game was the turning point.
“You’ve got a chance when you’re a player and you’re down, you can either think, gee I’m going to pack it in, and you can think about the things going wrong or you can find a solution,” Australian captain David Taylor said.
“Sam dug deep and got a great reward. Something like that can put you in such a great position for the future, knowing no matter the situation you can come back and win the match.
“That’s where Fed Cup and Davis Cup changes players and make them believe… and that can have an effect on Sam in the future.”
Stosur had saved those break points by putting more slice on her second serve and both women said if that game had gone to Spain then, more than likely, the end result would have been different.
However, Stosur’s confidence picked up, she raced through the set and went 4-1 up in the third. Credit to Martinez for staging a bit of a rally but Stosur did just enough to hold on and give the home team an early lead 26 61 64.
Turning point for Spain
That match was probably the crucial one for Spain to win because a victory over the world No. 11 would have injected a fair amount of confidence in the visitors and, while the Australians would not have rolled over by any means, it still would have dented their impetus.
The pressure was on Anabel Medina Garrigues going into the second match against Casey Dellacqua, and with that she soon found herself a break down. But the Spaniard turned it around, reeling off six consecutive games for the set, before going on to win 62 63.
Conditions on day two were certainly hotter, with play starting two hours earlier. The players were using ice towels on various parts of their bodies to keep themselves cool.
Carla Suarez Navarro had one curled on her head. If she was trying to make a new fashion statement, then she is better suited to hitting tennis balls, something she does very well.
Stosur came out of the blocks and gave the home side the advantage by beating Medina Garrigues 61 63 but the advantage did not last long because Suarez Navarro, who took Martinez Sanchez’s place in the line-up, overwhelmed Alicia Molik 61 61.
It was a miserable day at the office for Molik who just could not keep things together. But by the same token she gave full credit to Suarez, saying she was “a supreme player” and “a few levels” higher than herself.
So now, following the doubles triumph of Stosur and Stubbs, Australia must wait and see who they will play in the Play-offs on 24-25 April. The draw is taking place on 10 February.
“Sure a good draw helps but I believe we can beat any team. Spain has had a tremendous amount of success recently, so good draw or not, we’ll be ready,” Taylor said.
“We’d love it to be in Australia. We’ve been very lucky, this was our third straight tie in Australia but we had three years not in Australia. Sure there’s a bit of luck in Fed Cup and we hope that continues.”