Hobart, 5 February 2011 | AAP
Australian captain David Taylor is backing Fed Cup rookie Jarmila Groth to rise to the occasion when she makes her national debut against defending champions Italy on Saturday.
Groth faces a baptism of fire against French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in Saturday’s opening singles rubber in Hobart.
The Slovakia-born Groth is flying at a career-high ranking of world No.31 after toppling Australia’s world No.5 Samantha Stosur in Brisbane last month before taking out the Hobart International at the Fed Cup venue.
“Jarka’s got a very exciting game,” Taylor said.
“Anyone who’s watched her play, [will say] she’s exciting to watch. She can hit winners from both forehand, backhand and can serve huge.
“I guess we’ve all seen that over the summer. She won a title in her home country, beat a top-10 player for the first time – unfortunately that happened to be another Australian girl – but she’s come a long way in a short time.
“She’s shown a lot of potential, but is just realising that now and that’s in good timing for this tie.”
Married to Victorian touring professional Sam Groth, the hard-hitting 23-year-old was granted Australian citizenship in November 2009, the month before her new Fed Cup teammate Anastasia Rodionova received her Aussie passport.
While Rodionova made her Fed Cup debut last year and also won two gold medals for Australia at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Groth will be wearing the green and gold for the first time.
“It means a lot,” she said.
“I’m very honoured to be part of the team and I’m trying to show that even though I haven’t been born here, I’m part of Australia now and I’ll try to represent the country as well as I can.
“It has been really great for me to be here this week, to be part of the team and now starting the first match.
“I’ve had had a good week of practice and am ready to play and make a good start for the team.
“The last time I remember playing Francesca was when I was 14 practising as a hitting partner at the Australian Open, so it has been a while.
“All I can do is try to play what I can and do my best and fight for every point.”
Stosur plays Italian No.2 Flavia Pennetta in Saturday’s second singles rubber and will be trying to beat the world No.16 for the first time in four career meetings.
“I am feeling good and looking forward to playing again,” Stosur said.
“Hopefully Jarka can get us off to a good start. I am going to have a tough match against Flavia, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Australia have won all five previous ties against the Europeans, but Italy’s class of 2011 is a formidable line-up, having reached four finals in the past five years and winning the cup in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Some tickets still remain for both days of play between Australia and Italy. Tickets can be purchased as a two-day package or as individual sessions. Tickets can be purchased online from Ticketek or at the Domain Tennis Centre.
Watch the Australia versus Italy Fed Cup World Group clash live on Fox Sports 3 from 5 to 6 February.
Saturday 5 January
Coverage will begin at 1 pm live on Foxsports 3 on Channel 503 – to view this, push the red button your remote control.
Sunday 6 January
The replay of Saturday’s first two singles rubbers will be shown at 9:00 am on Sunday on Foxsports 3 (no red button required), immediately before the live coverage of Day 2, which begins at 11 am.
Follow the Fed Cup live scores on tennis.com.au.