AAP Tennis

Barty stars as Aussies clinch Fed Cup semi

By AAP Newswire

An Ashleigh Barty-powered Australia seized their moment when tennis briefly stole the spotlight in April but they aren't done yet after booking the country's first Fed Cup finals appearance in 26 years.

World No.9 Barty won all three of her matches in Brisbane to improve her unbeaten run to 14 in the teams event and become the first women to win all six matches on the way to a Fed Cup decider.

A tense weekend came down to the doubles rubber, with Barty and Samantha Stosur beating Belarus pair Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenko in a thrilling decider 7-5 3-6 6-2.

Australia will host the final in November against the winner of France and Romania, a tie which is currently locked at 1-1.

Australian captain Alicia Molik remained calm on the sidelines but beneath that exterior was fully aware of the significance as Australia chase their first title since 1974

"It was just an incredible weekend," Molik said.

"How fabulous for them (the crowd) to watch role models like this ... I hope they were watching us, not (AFL team) Carlton.

"Everyone loves to support the Aussies, but the Aussie Open feels like it comes and goes so quickly (in January).

"I feel fortunate ... to have the stage in April and we'll get to share it again in November.

"I don't remember anyone talking about just making the final and I think that's a good thing."

Barty was a class above all weekend and it wasn't missed by a gracious Belarus, team who were led on Sunday by former world No.1 and two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka.

Her 6-1 6-1 domination of Stosur gave Belarus the momentum after Barty had beaten world No.10 Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-2 to edge Australia ahead 2-1.

"It was that close; the whole weekend was just an extraordinary display of women's tennis and I was just so happy to be a part of that," Azarenka said.

"They just took their opportunities a little better.

"They were really good today ... for me personally I walked off with a smile because I'm very proud of my team."

An Australian Fed Cup record crowd of 9554 across both days sat mesmerised as both teams threw everything at each other in the tie.

Barty was ice cool all weekend, striding calmly onto court with three-year-old niece Lucy in her arms on Sunday before switching into game mode.

Molik's decision to stick with Stosur for both of Sunday's matches was a brave one, but the 35-year-old recovered remarkably.

Blown away by Azarenka earlier in the day - Stosur only held serve once all match - the veteran reset to improve her perfect Fed Cup doubles record to 8-0 thanks to some quick hands and assured court craft under immense pressure.

Both women will depart for the clay and grass courts of Europe before returning for a November home final in a city to be confirmed.

FED CUP SEMI FINAL

Sabalenka bt Stosur 7-5 5-7 6-3

Barty bt Azarenka 7-6 (7-2) 6-3

Barty bt Sabalenka 6-2 6-2

Azarenka bt Stosur 6-1 6-1

Barty/Stosur bt Azarenka/Sabalenka 7-5 3-6 6-2.