Fed Cup draw pits partners against each other
DOUBLES partners three weeks ago, Ash Barty and Victoria Azarenka will oppose each other in a vital Fed Cup singles match in Brisbane on Saturday.
Barty, who cracked the singles world top 10 late last month when she won the Miami Open, reached the semi-finals of the doubles at the same tournament with Belarus's former world No.1 Azarenka.
The friends were on Friday drawn to play the second match of the semi-final tie which Australia is bidding to win to claim a spot in the final of the women's teams competition of the first time since 1993.
Sam Stosur, available in this tie for the first time in more than 12 months, will open Australia's attack on the tie at Pat Rafter Arena in an opening match against Belarus No.1 Aryna Sabalenka.
Azarenka, a dual Australian Open champion, beat Barty in their only match since the former world No.1 gave birth to her son in 2016.
"She is a Grand Slam champion regardless of what (ranking of No.61) number is beside her name," Barty said.
"She has won the Australian Open and the Brisbane International and she likes Australian conditions.
"She fights and prepares and plays like a Grand Slam champion."
Belarus admitted they were surprised that Australia picked Stosur, ranked No.73, to play singles against world No.10 Sabalenka, ahead of Australia's 58th ranked Daria Gavrilova.
Stosur's win-loss record at Rafter Arena is actually worse than it is at the Australian Open.
"It's always a bit of a challenge at Pat Rafter Arena but I've played some very goodp layers," said Queensland's 2011 US Open champion.
The Queensland representation in the home team, a big selling point for ticket sales for the tie, extends to the doubles, with Barty and Stosur named for Sunday's fifth match in doubles.
The captains can and no doubt will change the two singles and one doubles selections for Sunday.
Australian captain Alicia Molik has usually deployed three singles players across the two-day ties on her watch.