Samantha Stosur has led Australia to the verge of a place in the top tier of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, a position they haven’t occupied since 2004. In February, she won all three rubbers in her nation’s 3-2 victory over Spain in the World Group II first round in Adelaide.
Stosur opened the tie with a hard fought three-set victory over Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez, a player she had never previously defeated. She then eased past Anabel Medina Garrigues, before teaming up with Rennae Stubbs to win the crucial doubles.
Stosur has always been a highly successful doubles player, winning 22 titles, including victories at the US Open and Roland Garros, as well as lifting the mixed doubles trophies at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. On the singles court, however, she has only recently started to realise her potential.
In 2009, Stosur won her first singles title, beating Francesca Schiavone in the Final in Osaka, and was also a semifinalist at Roland Garros. She was recently ranked No. 10 in the world, a career high, but, despite this individual success, still regards playing for Australia as one of her top priorities.
“It’s very different, with the team on the sidelines cheering for you, obviously the coach sitting on court the whole match, and a few rowdy fans on the sidelines,” said Stosur.
“It makes for a pretty exciting atmosphere, but it definitely means a lot to me and I love representing my country. It’s a little bit more pressure, in that you definitely feel it a little bit more when there is a team involved.”
New destination for Aussies
Having not played away since 2008, Australia travels to Kharkiv in the Play-offs to face a Ukrainian team that made its World Group debut against Italy in February. The Europeans won the only previous meeting between the two nations, back in 2007, and Stosur is relishing the prospect of revenge.
“It hasn’t been on my destination list, but I’m actually really looking forward to it. It’s somewhere different and I’m sure they’re going to put on a good tie,” said Stosur, who has never previously visited Ukraine.
“It’s always tough playing away. We’ve been very lucky recently with how many home ties we’ve had, we haven’t had to play away for a couple of years now. That will be a little bit different for us, but we’re kind of used to it from many years ago. So, hopefully we can pick up where we left off in Adelaide.”
Rodionova to make debut
Stosur is joined in the line-up by Stubbs, Alicia Molik and Anastasia Rodionova, who was born in Russia but gained Australian citizenship in December 2009.
Stosur, Stubbs and Molik all played in the last Australian team to compete in the World Group. Rodionova, on the other hand, will be making her Fed Cup debut if selected.
Ukraine will be spearheaded by Alona Bondarenko, the world No. 25, and, in the absence of her sister, Kateryna, will be supported by Mariya Koryttseva and twins Lyudmyla and Nadiya Kichenok.
The tie is taking place on an indoor clay court at the Palace of Sports “Lokomotiv” on 24-25 April. It will be the fourth consecutive time that Ukraine has used this venue for a home tie.