Barty channels Aussie legends in Cup quest
Ash Barty says with pride that her bid this week to drive her country through to a first Fed Cup final in 26 years will be done "the Australian way''.
With her adventurous style and her throwback sliced backhand, world No.9 Barty has appreciated praise from tennis elder statesmen Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall for playing in a way which reflects Australia's methods in the 1950s and 1960s.
Laver's most recent encouragement for Barty came after her Miami Open title two weeks ago, saying on Twitter that she was in the top 10 where she "belonged … more titles await for this humble Aussie''.
"For Rod to even say he watches one of my matches - that's amazing when I hear those kind words from such legends as them I try to go about my business as best I can,'' Barty said after practice for Saturday's start of the Fed Cup semi-final against Belarus at Pat Rafter Arena.
"We've had a couple of semi-finals in more recent years and it's an opportunity to play the Australian way to try to make a final, or win a match for my team.
"I struck the ball probably better than ever in Miami, but these are different conditions and different balls (in Brisbane).
"We are all very familiar with this court (Rafter Arena) and we know we can play our best tennis on it. You have to take the confidence - it was one of the best weeks of my career.''
The Queenslander is putting on the backburner her Grand Slam ambitions in order to pursue her Fed Cup passions before she resumes on the WTA Tour in two claycourt tournaments next month before the French Open.
Australian team captain Alicia Molik says Barty's game style is so adaptable to clay that she is capable of a long run at Roland Garros, where she lost in three sets to Serena Williams in the second round.
"I have a long way to go," Barty said. "A goal of mine is to go deep into Slams and we were able to do that at the Australian Open (by making a first Grand Slam quarter-final).
"Can I win a Grand Slam? Maybe. There's a lot of things out of my control.
"The next goal in a Grand Slam sense is the French Open, to give myself an opportunity. I played well without any results on the clay last year. I have to give myself a chance.''
Australia's most obvious route to victory against a Belarus team with three top-60 players is for Barty, the tie's highest ranked player, to win two singles and back up for the doubles.
That workload in the Fed Cup win in the United States left her with a hip injury which ruled her out of her next two WTA events, delaying her rise to the top 10.
"There have been multiple times I've played three matches across two days on tour or at Fed Cup. Come Saturday I'll be ready to play if I'm selected,'' Barty said.