Seville, Spain, 7 November 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Outgoing captain Alicia Molik believes her Australian team can’t be discounted, despite losing their opening group tie at the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Spain.

“It is a big challenge for us, but anything is possible,” an upbeat Molik said following Australia’s 1-2 loss to Slovenia on the opening day of the competition.

Slovenia swept both singles rubbers to make a dream finals debut in the prestigious team competition.

World No.104 Kaja Juvan posted a 6-4 6-1 victory against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the opening singles rubber, before world No.100 Tamara Zidansek sealed victory for Slovenia with a 6-1 6-4 triumph over Daria Saville.

Molik defended the team’s decision not to play Kimberly Birrell, who is currently Australia’s top-ranked singles player.

“It was a really difficult decision, because everyone’s level was incredibly high between Kim, Ajla and Dash,” Molik said.

“But sometimes you do have to rely on experience.”

Birrell instead teamed with new world No.1 Storm Hunter in doubles, with the first-time pairing edging out a 7-5 6-7(2) [10-5] victory against Slovenian duo Veronika Erjavec and Ela Nala Milic.

“To come out and play the doubles, even though we lost the tie, it’s still really important to try and get a win on the board,” Hunter said.

“Kimbo and myself, we did a really good job just hanging in tough and ended up getting the win, which was awesome.”

Remarkably, Hunter’s flight from Cancun (where she was competing at the WTA Finals) only arrived in Seville two hours before the tie commenced.

“(My) bags didn’t arrive, so that made it a bit tricky, but I had some racquets on me and I was prepared to play,” Hunter said.

“I had my outfit, my shoes, and mentally I was ready to go if our team needed that.

“It was obviously a quick turnaround, but for me, representing my country is the greatest honour and honestly the most amazing thing I can ever do with my tennis career. I want to be ready and prepared whenever possible.”

The Australian team plays their final round-robin match on Thursday against a Kazakhstan line-up spearheaded by world No.4 Elena Rybakina.

“It’s a do-or-die one, isn’t it? It’s all or nothing,” Molik said.

“Sometimes it’s good actually when you need to win, because there is no other option. You really are forced into a corner.”

The nation that finishes atop of Group B will advance to the knockout semifinals later in the week.

Billie Jean King Cup 2023 Finals


Kaja Juvan (SLO) d Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-4 6-1
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) d Daria Saville (AUS) 6-1 6-4
Kimberly Birrell/Storm Hunter (AUS) d Veronika Erjavec/Ela Nala Milic (SLO) 7-5 6-7(2) [10-5]

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