Stosur’s big call for Brisbane Billie Jean King Cup tie

Murray Wenzel |

Captain Sam Stosur has a good selection problem ahead of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier.
Captain Sam Stosur has a good selection problem ahead of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier.

Australia’s new Billie Jean King Cup captain Sam Stosur has an intriguing selection call to make ahead of a finals qualification tie against Mexico in Brisbane.

Former US Open champion and world No.4 Stosur has taken over from long-time leader Alicia Molik and will sit courtside for the crucial April 12-13 tie at Pat Rafter Arena.

And she has an intriguing selection call to make that will set the foundation of her tenure, with Australia’s highest-ranked player and only current top-100 talent no certainty to be there.

Arina Rodionova this month became the oldest player to crack the top 100, the 34-year-old’s prolific 2023 season netting seven ITF singles titles as she returned from injury to jump more than 200 ranking places.

Arina Rodionova.
Arina Rodionova hits a forehand during her 2024 Australian Open preparations in Brisbane. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

But the Russian-born Melburnian is at odds with Tennis Australia, claiming a personal vendetta cost her a wildcard to the Australian Open earlier this year in a furious spray after losing in qualifying.

The current world No.99 wasn’t in the picture for last November’s Billie Jean King Cup finals, Australia narrowly missing out on a semi-final berth in Spain.

World No.1 doubles player Storm Hunter, Australia’s second-highest singles player at 120, was the star of that campaign with a singles win and two doubles victories.

She qualified for the Australian Open singles and reached the third round and has continued her strong doubles form with victory in Dubai last week.

Former world No.32 and three-time grand slam quarter-finalist Ajla Tomljanovic, 30, is currently Australia’s No.11 at 223 as she returns from a long-term injury.

There are eight Australians ranked between her and Hunter, six of those aged 25 or younger.

“The next couple of weeks are pretty important for all our Australian players to see what their form is,” Stosur, who will select the team in two weeks, said.

“How they’re going, not just in January but more recently, going into the tie.

“You can go down the ranking list and know all those girls are wanting to put their hand up and play in the team and be part of it.”

She hinted Hunter’s efforts had her in the box seat to lead the team again.

Storm Hunter.
Storm Hunter celebrates victory during the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“She’s one of the best players in the world on the doubles court but in this sort of competition she’s stepped up and led the team the last couple of years with her performances in singles as well,” Stosur said.

“Arina’s our No.1 player, just inside the 100, but we’ve got seven or eight girls between that 100 or 200 really trying desperately to get into that 100 as well.

“Kim Birrell (currently world No.159) almost broke the 100 late last year. The possibility is there, they’re all working as hard as they can to get there.

“I thought I was sort of on the pulse (as a player) but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes and so far I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Stosur was part of an Australian team featuring Ash Barty when Brisbane last hosted a tie in 2019, when it was known as the Fed Cup.

They beat Belarus 3-2 in a thrilling semi-final Stosur recalls fondly.

“There’s always an incredible atmosphere on this court,” Stosur, who also made three French Open semi-finals and one final, said.

“That 2019 tie, it’s some of the best memories I’ve got of my career.”

With a return to the tournament’s finals stage at stake, Australia will start favourites against a Mexico team boasting just one player inside the world’s top 288.

“When you’re playing for your country anything can happen, rankings kind of go out the window,” Stosur said.


* 99 – Arina Rodionova

* 122 – Storm Hunter

* 138 – Astra Sharma

* 143 – Olivia Gadecki

* 148 – Daria Saville

* 153 – Taylah Preston

* 159 – Kimberly Birrell

* 170 – Priscilla Hon

* 201 – Destanee Aiava

* 215 – Talia Gibson

* 223 – Ajla Tomljanovic.