Stosur mulls captain’s pick for Brisbane Cup qualifier

Murray Wenzel |

Daria Saville is hunting a singles berth for Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup tie in Brisbane.
Daria Saville is hunting a singles berth for Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup tie in Brisbane.

New Australian captain Sam Stosur can look in three directions and see different stories of resilience as she ponders her picks for a high-stakes Billie Jean King Cup tie against Mexico.

Storm Hunter, Daria Saville and Arina Rodionova all boast a tale as they battle for a singles berth in Brisbane on Friday and Saturday, where victory would propel the hosts into November’s finals.

Hunter, 29, finished 2023 as the world’s No.1 doubles player but has surged towards the top 100 in singles after a run to the third round of the Australian Open.

This year Rodionova, at 34, became the oldest woman to reach the top 100 for the first time, winning seven ITF singles titles in 2023 as she rocketed from No.302 in the world.

Saville, 30, is again Australia’s highest-ranked woman after bumping inside the top 100 this week on her comeback from a 2022 anterior cruciate ligament tear.

Ranked as high as No.20 in 2017, Saville has also suffered from long-term knee and achilles injuries.

“The amount of times Dasha’s come back from a very, very serious injury to the top of the sport,” Stosur, who will settle on her team overnight, said of Saville on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately she’s had to do it three times now, but I had faith that she would get back inside the 100 and definitely beyond again.”

Former US Open champion Stosur described Hunter as “legitimately one of the best players in the world”.

“And Arina, what she did last year grinding on the challenger circuit was amazing,” she added.

“(It shows that if) you want to put in the hard work, hard yards, week in, week out, it’s possible.”

Sam Stosur
Former US Open champion Sam Stosur is Australia’s new Billie Jean King Cup captain. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Rodionova was at odds with Tennis Australia earlier this year when overlooked for a main-draw wildcard to the Australian Open, accusing the body of having an agenda against her.

But Stosur said there was no need for diplomacy in her new role.

“There was none. I said, ‘Would you want to be in the team?’ She said, ‘Absolutely’. She got picked,” Stosur said.

“Arina and I, we don’t have any problems. She loves playing for her country and that’s what it’s about.”

Australia, runners-up in 2022 and 2019, haven’t won the tournament since Evonne Goolagong, Dianne Fromholtz and Janet Young clinched victory in 1974.

“That loss five years ago was one of the most heartbreaking days of my career,” Stosur said of their Perth loss to France.

“It’s a tough competition and important to get through this one to even have a chance.

“Anything can happen, but we’ve got to get there to have a shot.”

Ellen Perez is likely to partner Hunter in doubles on Saturday, while emerging talent Taylah Preston is also in the squad.

Mexico boast current doubles world No.25 Giuliana Olmos, who last year became her country’s first woman to be ranked inside the top 10 in either singles or doubles.

But they are without singles strike weapon Renata Zarazua, the current world No.100 who this year became the second Mexican woman and first in 24 years to reach the Australian Open main draw.

Instead they’ll look to Fernanda Contreras, the world No.401 who was as high as No.139 two years ago.

She won all three of her matches against Austria in November to secure the nation’s qualifying berth.

AAP