When the tennis roadshow rolls into Australia each summer there is one question on every fan’s mind.
Can Sam Stosur finally deliver in Australia?
Year after year, Stosur has struggled to deal with the pressure to reach the lofty expectations set by the Australian public.
Add to that Daria Gavrilova’s meltdown at this year’s Australian Open, a straight-sets, second round loss to Elise Mertens in which she led 5-0 in the first set, and it’s not surprising Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis chose to pile the pressure on the host nation ahead of this weekend’s Fed Cup tie.
Australian captain Alicia Molik knows her team enters the tie as hot favourites, but she believes they will thrive inside WIN Entertainment Centre.
Speaking at the official opening of the resurfaced courts at Wollongong Tennis Club, Molik expressed her wariness for a weakened Dutch team and vowed to ensure there would be no complacency creeping into the group.
“There is pressure on our team to perform,” Molik said. “But I think that’s natural. If you look at where our team are ranked, Ash sitting inside the top 20, yes we’re expected to win, but it’s another thing to get the job done.
“I’ve experienced first hand what the Dutch are able to produce. Quite often in Fed Cup rankings go out the window because when the pressure isn’t on, it’s amazing what some players can produce. We’ve been on the receiving end before, and that’s a good reason for us to be completely prepared for the weekend.
“I’m confident with our team. What a team we’ve got, Ash, Dash, Sam Stosur’s back in the fold now which is really exciting, particularly for one of our youngsters Destanee, to play alongside her, I think it’s a great time in tennis right now.
Molik is in charge of a young Australian team that can return to the Fed Cup World Group with a victory and is shaping as a genuine contender in the next few years.
Ash Barty has progressed at a phenomenal rate since returning to the sport and currently sits at 19th in the world. Daria Gavrilova is now 24 and is entering the prime of her career. And Destanee Aiava took out an ITF Futures tournament on Sunday at just 17 years of age.
With two players ranked in the top 25 and Sam Stosur striving to return to the top of the women’s game, Molik believes women’s tennis in Australia is as strong as it has ever been. She is well aware, however, that the time is now for this team to live up to the potential and deliver results.
“We should be near the top and we should’ve been there in the last few years. This is an opportunity to win this tie and secure our position in the top eight nations in the world.
“It’s a great opportunity for someone like Destanee and also for Ash and Dash to spend more time with Sam. These weeks are always different to other tournament weeks, because we do live and breathe out of each other’s pockets and it’s a really great opportunity to get to know teammates so much better.”