Battling a leg injury, Storm Sanders has paired with 38-year-old Sam Stosur to send Australia through to its first Billie Jean King Cup final.
The continuing heroics of double winner Sanders alongside the seemingly ageless Stosur has left captain Alicia Molik believing her team of battlers is now ready to be crowned world champion in Glasgow.
In a tie-deciding super tie-break in the doubles, the pair held their nerve admirably amid a home crowd din to edge Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett and seal a 2-1 silencer of a triumph over hosts Great Britain.
Evonne Goolagong led Australia to its last title in the competition – then named the Federation Cup – 48 years ago.
“It’s ours for the taking, we’ve just got to go for it and see what happens,” declared Molik after her own nerves had settled following a day of high drama.
“Today, Australia really showed our fighting spirit. I mean, we are going to bring it tomorrow too. It’s exciting.”
Three years ago, Molik led the team that lost agonisingly in the final to France in Perth — but this time she’s convinced her side can beat the odds even though they won’t start favourites against either the powerful Swiss or Czech Republic sides, who were meeting later in the second semi-final.
“We’ve got the team, I believe, to get through tomorrow. We’re still making up for the final we lost in 2019,” Molik said.
Stosur — 19 years since she first played in the event then known as the Federation Cup — was again a rock for her inspired partner as Sanders won her fifth rubber of the week.
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With the scores locked at 6-6 in the first-to-10 deciding super breaker, the pair were super-charged after the final changeover, cracking four winning volleys between them to finally edge to a 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (5/7), [10-6] win.
It was the 39th BJK Cup win of 38-year-old Stosur’s distinguished career and there has hardly been a more important one.
“I’d certainly rather be playing than watching,” smiled the former US Open champ, who felt she might spend the week cheerleading on the bench after not having won a match since June.
Instead, she’s now prevailed in two crucial matches with Sanders this week.
“I wanted to try and help the team in whatever way I could. If that’s on the court, that’s great; if it’s cheering from the sideline, then that’s OK too.”
Victory came after Sanders had earlier battled through a leg injury to beat Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in the opening singles rubber, only for Ajla Tomljanovic to then suffer a serious off-day, losing to Harriet Dart — ranked 65 places below her 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 to leave the tie on a knife edge.
Sanders was again Australia’s aggressive inspiration, defying her lowly world ranking of 237 as she outplayed the world number 133 Watson despite a leg injury that required off-court physio treatment at the end of the first set.
But she was back a couple of hours later, playing superbly.
“I’m ready, super-pumped and proud of this team. It’s awesome. Kind of use the high from today to keep going for tomorrow,” she said.
“We are in the final, and I feel like, yeah, let’s give it everything tomorrow.”