Anastasia Rodionova is set to make her Fed Cup debut against Ukraine, Tennis Australia announced on Wednesday.
Rodionova, who was born in Russia but gained Australian citizenship in December 2009, is joined in the team by Samantha Stosur, Alicia Molik and Rennae Stubbs.
Australia travels to Kharkiv for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-offs on 24-25 April, vying to clinch a place in the top tier for the first time since 2004.
Australia booked a spot in the Play-offs with a 3-2 triumph over Spain in Adelaide. The result was decided in the fifth rubber, with Stosur and Stubbs teaming up seal the vital point.
Taylor in confident mood
“This is perhaps one of the most significant Fed Cup ties in recent memory,” said David Taylor, the Australian captain since 2006.
“It is an opportunity for the Australian team to re-establish itself among the elite countries in the women’s tennis.
“Our No.1 singles player, Sam, will once again take on the role of team leader while Rennae, who is the longest serving member in Australian Fed Cup history, makes a strong doubles combination with Sam if it gets down to the fifth rubber.
“Anastasia is in the Top 100 and will been keen to represent her country at Fed Cup for the first time since she was granted Australian citizenship in December 2009. She is a real fighter on court and will make the most of every opportunity.
“Alicia is also on the verge of breaking into the Top 100 players which is an unbelievable feat within six months.
“She brings not only the experience of seventeen Fed Cup ties but amazing form, defeating world No.19 Jie Zheng in Dubai and world No.32 Anabel Medina-Garrigues in Indian Wells over the last two months.”
History gives Ukraine edge
Australia and Ukraine have met once before, when the Europeans claimed a 4-1 victory on the Gold Coast in 2007. Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko successfully combined to win the opening three singles rubbers to hand the visitors an unassailable lead.
The two sisters will likely spearhead the Ukrainian challenge on this occasion, too. In February's first round against Italy, which was Ukraine’s first appearance in the World Group, the defending champions overcame the best efforts of the Bondarenkos to win 4-1.
“The Ukrainian team has a lot of depth with three singles players in the Top 100 and a strong doubles pairing,” added Taylor.
“We will need to be at our best but I think we are up for the challenge and we are looking forward to the contest.”
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Semifinals, World Group Play-offs and World Group II Play-offs are taking place on 24-25 April. Official team nominations are due on 14 April.