Brisbane, QLD, 17 April 2019 | Matt Trollope

With the Australian and Belarusian Fed Cup teams so evenly matched on paper, Australian captain Alicia Molik believes her team’s advantage can be found in its momentum, and cohesion.

After Australia’s latest practice session on Wednesday at Pat Rafter Arena, Molik said the home side were all coming into this weekend’s semifinal with strong results under their belts.

> get your Fed Cup semifinal tickets!

“We’ve got a lot of form players,” she said.

“Quarterfinal for Ash at the Australian Open, winning Miami. Dasha starting to get a roll on at Indian Wells. Sam getting to the final of Miami doubles, winning the Australian Open, beating Madison Keys two weeks ago (in Miami).

“I think we’ve had a lot of momentum from the 1st of January to this point in time. In terms of the load for the players, I think they’re fresh and ready to compete this weekend. That’s the most important thing.”

Australia and Belarus are incredibly difficult to separate when it comes to the talent in their squads.

Both teams boast top-10 singles players in Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka. Both possess Grand Slam singles champions in Sam Stosur and Victoria Azarenka. Daria Gavrilova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich are similarly-ranked. Priscilla Hon and Vera Lapko, both 20 years of age, have begun playing more regularly at WTA level.

Belarusian captain Tatiana Poutchek said it was hard to pick a favourite, but noted that her team “is the strongest that we have for a while”.

“This team plays already quite a few matches – we have a great team,” she said.

Yet Molik believes the Australian squad has more momentum behind it than the opposition ahead of a high-stakes tie.

“We have an enormous hurdle this weekend – if you look on paper, our rankings are very similar. Our team have so much respect for their players,” Molik said.

“We have a really close-knit, cohesive team. Our players play for each other, they respect each other, they’re great mates, they’re willing to go the extra mile for each other.

“These qualities that are on display every day of the week in practice, I think translate to the weekend. This isn’t an individual sport this week – we’re a team.”

Molik admitted that determining the line-up for this tie had been tough, given the options at Australia’s disposal.

In addition to the four players selected for the semifinal, several other Aussie women – like Astra Sharma, Kimberly Birrell, Zoe Hives and Destanee Aiava – have all enjoyed great results in the first few months of this season.

“Incredibly difficult (selection process). One of those players is Astra Sharma, who last week made the final in Bogota (and) won the doubles. She was part of the make-up of our five in Asheville in February,” Molik said.

“(Back then) literally the third and fourth spots were open between Kimberly Birrell, Astra Sharma and Priscilla Hon. That was critical to have five then, to decide who would make up the four for us.

“A big inclusion this Fed Cup tie is Sam Stosur who has one of the best Fed Cup records of all time; it’s fantastic that she’s back in the team. But then it also makes selection tougher, because there’s one spot left, and that went to Priscilla Hon.

“I think the toughest part is sometimes, as a captain, you have to be unselfish, to a degree – it would be great to have Astra and Kimberly here, (but) at the same time it’s really important for their careers that they are overseas playing tournaments and building on their momentum.

“That’s important for us, that’s important for them as well, not to sacrifice too many ranking points that can count for large things when we’ve got the French Open and Wimbledon coming up soon. They’re gunning for some pretty big goals now.

“That’s the reason for us selecting a team of four for this tie.”

Australia will play Belarus in the Fed Cup World Group semifinals on 20-21 April, 2019.