Brisbane, QLD, 19 April 2019 | Matt Trollope

Australia and Belarus will take to Pat Rafter Arena on Saturday for the first day of play in the Fed Cup semifinals in Brisbane.

The hosts will be led by No.1 and No.2 singles players Ash Barty and Sam Stosur, while Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka have been selected by the visitors for singles play.


Barty and Stosur will team up in the doubles rubber, while the Belarusians will be represented by Vera Lapko and Lidziya Marozava.

The draw ceremony for the tie took place in the glamorous setting of the Emporium Hotel’s rooftop in Southbank.

An elaborate Easter-themed chocolate-melting process was used to determine the order of the matches, before the teams spoke to the press about the weekend’s competition.

Here’s what they had to say.

Alicia Molik, on selecting Sam Stosur for singles duty:

“Sam’s had a wonderful week in practice. She’s extremely confident right now, she was very relaxed throughout the week, and I think closer to the pointy end of this weekend and playing tomorrow, playing some fine tennis. She’s been in great form and I think our coaching staff are really confident that Sam can win on Saturday. We know that the match-up for the No.2 player was Aryna Sabalenka … it’s a player that Sam’s really familiar with and I think that’s very important as well, going into a tie like this one, where no doubt experience has to count as well.”

Stosur, on facing Aryna Sabalenka first up:

“It’s going to be a big challenge – she’s 10 in the world at the moment. We’ve played one time in singles in New Haven last year and she plays big, she’s got a big game, big serve, hits the ball hard, and has a big presence out there. So I know that I’m going to have to take it to her and try and play my game and be aggressive. It’s gonna be a tough challenge but I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play and get a chance to get out there and try my best and see where that takes me.”

Sabalenka, on facing Stosur:

“We have played once in New Haven and it was tough match. She’s a great player. My tactic is just to go there and show my best, try to fight for each point and do my best … because she have a lot of experience and she’s a great player.”

Ash Barty, on her match against Victoria Azarenka:

“I’ve played Vika in Tokyo and she played a brilliant match, and was pretty one-way traffic. I think I have an opportunity to come out tomorrow and try a few different things. Hit a few more balls with her obviously in the last month or so (in doubles) and got to know her a lot better and I practice with her often.

“She’s a Grand Slam champion, and that’s the way she conducts herself on the court, regardless of what number is next to her name. She’s won the Australian Open, she’s won the Brisbane International and she’s very familiar with this surface, with this court. And I think in a way it’s remarkable what she’s been able to do after having (son) Leo and coming back so quickly and being so successful, regardless of the number that’s next to her name, she fights, and prepares and plays like a Grand Slam champion, and that’s one the of the biggest challenges.”

Azarenka returns the compliments:

“Of course you do learn a little bit of the patterns (from playing doubles with Ash), but it goes vice-versa. For me, I’ve learned a lot about her as a person and she’s a great girl, and you guys are lucky to have her represent Australia with such class.”

Barty, on playing doubles with Stosur:

“No we haven’t (played together). Fresh and new. It worked out very well for us in the US with Pri and I (playing together for the first time) so absolutely no reason why Sammy and I can’t play well together. And I’m sure we will. I think it will be fresh, new and exciting.”

Molik, on the Australian team’s preparation:

“I guess the challenge is that make sure that every single player has every bit of preparation into them in case we need that player to compete and perform for us on the weekend. I feel like we’ve had that this week at Pat Rafter Arena and the venue – it’s helped having an outside court, as well. We’ve often had the two practice courts running at the same time, which is a bit of a luxury – we don’t always get that at Fed Cup ties. It’s meant that we’ve been able to get the volume that we need.

“We’ve worked incredibly hard (to get back into the World Group), we’ve put in the effort, we’re at the semifinal stage now. It’s really exciting. We have an end goal, and that’s (the final in) November. Huge hurdle this weekend. But we’ve set our bar and our goals pretty high – I think that’s what this playing group is capable of.”

Azarenka, on returning to Australia:

“I think it’s gonna be exciting, under a little bit of a different circumstances (to January) for sure. I’m very much aware of the Aussie patrons and the support they bring and love for the sport. So I’m really looking forward to that. Even though we’re not gonna have a home advantage I think it’s gonna be an amazing atmosphere and I’m looking forward to tough battles. That’s what we’re here for – to fight for our countries, show our best tennis, show our passion for the game.”

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