Barty leads Australia into Fed Cup semis

Ashleigh Barty has led the way and debutant Priscilla Hon was her reliable sidekick as Australia knocked the United States out of the Fed Cup to set up a world group semi-final clash with Belarus.

The US had the home crowd in Asheville, at North Carolina’s US Cellular Centre indoor arena on Monday (AEDT), but Australia possessed world No.13 Barty who was invincible.

Ashleigh Barty has led Australia to a Fed Cup win over the US.Credit:AP

Barty demolished Sofia Kenin in the first singles rubber on Sunday and followed up with 6-4, 6-1 victory a day later against America’s world No.17 Madison Keys.

She then headed into the doubles decider alongside 20-year-old Hon with the world group tie locked 2-2.

Barty and Hon comprehensively beat experienced American duo Nicole Melichar and Danielle Collins 6-4, 7-5 to book the Belarus match-up.

‘‘We’ve had a hell of a weekend and there’s absolutely nothing better than coming out and playing a live tie for your country,’’ Barty said.

Barty (right) and Priscilla Hon celebrate a point in the doubles.Credit:AP

‘‘For Pri to play the way she played today, I’m just so proud of her.’’

Hon has a singles ranking of 143, is 125th in doubles and had never played competitively partnered with Barty, but she showed no nerves against the Americans.

‘‘This is my dream come true,’’ Hon said.

‘‘I’ve always wanted to play for Australia and beside Ash.

‘‘I’ve always looked up to her my whole life.’’

Hon was not originally selected to play doubles but team captain Alicia Molik shook up the line-up for the crucial second day.

Kimberly Birrell, who was outclassed by Keys in Saturday’s singles rubber, was benched by Molik for out-of-form Daria Gavrilova.

It was a risk, with Gavrilova winless in 2019.

The world No.47 put up a fight but fell to Collins 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to square the tie for the US and set up the doubles decider.

Australia enjoy their triumph over the US in the Fed Cup.Credit:AP

Gavrilova was pencilled in for doubles. Molik instead slotted Hon alongside Barty and they played like a veteran doubles team.

Australia will play Belarus in April, with the location decided by a coin toss as the nations are yet to play each other in the Fed Cup.

It is the first time since 2014 Australia have made the semi-finals.

Belarus beat Germany 4-0 in Braunschweig, as Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1.

The ninth-ranked Sabalenka hit 18 winners compared to five to help Belarus avenge losing to Germany 3-2 last year in Minsk.

In doubles, Victoria Azarenka teamed up with Lidziya Marozava to beat Mona Barthel and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1, 0-6, 11-9 to win 4-0 overall.

Belarus lost the 2017 final to the US.

The other Fed Cup semi-final will be France against Romania.


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