Alicia Molik has drafted the newly eligible Ajla Tomljanovic straight into Australia’s team for next month’s Fed Cup final against France in Perth.
Croatian-born Tomljanovic, the Australian No.2, joins team spearhead Ashleigh Barty and Cup stalwart Samantha Stosur for the November 9-10 title decider after only being cleared by the ITF only this month.
Young guns Astra Sharma and Priscilla Hon round out the side as Australia chase a first Fed Cup trophy in 45 years in what will be the country’s only final appearance since 1993.
“The Fed Cup Final is a momentous occasion for not only the players and team, but the wider tennis community and Australian sporting fans,” Molik said.
“We’ve had many magnificent moments so far to get us to this point and I’m so proud of each and every member of our team who has been a part of this journey.
“Hosting a Fed Cup Final in your home country is a rare and precious opportunity. It’s going to be a spectacular event and I can’t wait.”
With Barty leading the way, Australia are slight favourites to break their near-half-century Fed Cup title drought.
Unbeaten in Fed Cup play in two-and-a-half years, the world No.1 has won all four of her singles matches plus two decisive doubles rubbers in 2019 to become the first player ever to win six straight World Group matches on the road to the final in the current competition format.
But Molik faces somewhat of a selection conundrum choosing between Stosur and Cup rookie Tomljanovic as her second singles option.
While Tomljanovic has spent most of 2019 inside the top 50 after hitting a career-high No.39 in April, the vastly experienced Stosur boasts the most singles wins for Australia in Fed Cup history and last month also reached her first hardcourt final in five years in Guangzhou.
Barty said it’s a good problem for Australia’s captain to have.
“In the last two ties, we’ve shown that it’s taken a team effort,” Barty told AAP before opening her WTA Finals campaign with a 5-7 6-1 6-2 comeback win over Belinda Bencic on Sunday night.
“The beauty of what Alicia has created is we’ve got depth in our team.
“We’ve got belief in every single player and it doesn’t matter who gets the wins on the board.
“It’s about coming together and trying to figure out a way how team Australia can win the tie.”
Regardless who Molik goes with, Barty believes it’s advantage Australia before a ball is even hit.
And not just because Australia have the home-court advantage at the RAC Arena.
Barty believes the fact that both she and Stosur are contesting this week’s WTA Finals in Shenzhen gives Australia another edge over France.
“It’s good actually still playing matches right through,” she said.
“I know some of the French girls in particular wouldn’t have played for two or three weeks (before the final).
“Obviously they’re experienced enough to deal with that but it’s definitely nicer to be playing matches and competing right up until you have to.”