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Aussies can be in Fed Cup title mix: Molik
Liam FitzGibbon
15:56 AEST Tue Apr 23 2013

Team captain Alicia Molik believes teen sensation Ashleigh Barty can help Australia give the Fed Cup title a serious shake next year.

Australia retained a place in the top tier of the competition with a 3-1 win over Switzerland in their rain-delayed World Group playoff in Chiasso on Monday.

Barty, who turns 17 on Wednesday, impressed in her first Fed Cup singles match having only previously played in a doubles dead rubber.

After being called up to replace Jarmila Gajdosova in the reverse singles, she showed no sign of nerves in a classy 6-3 6-4 defeat of Swiss No.2 Stefanie Voegele, ranked 141 places higher at 56th in the world.

Molik predicted it was the beginning of something special for Australia.

"It's incredible. Hopefully she'll be doing this for the next 10-15 years, being part of the Fed Cup team, and now she's had a taste," Molik told AAP.

"I look forward to the next Fed Cup tie too because she should expect to play and she should train like she is playing, which she has done this week.

"I think it's different also having played in a live rubber. I think it gives you a sense of belonging and if she didn't have it before, she's definitely got it now."

With spearhead Samantha Stosur delivering the goods with two straight-sets wins and Molik encouraged by the contributions of Gajdosova and Casey Dellacqua in training, the captain is optimistic about 2014.

Australia fought hard to earn promotion back to the World Group last year but were forced into the playoff after losing 4-0 in the first round to titleholders the Czech Republic in February.

The scoreline may have flattered the top-ranked Czechs, though, and Molik is convinced her team is capable of mixing it with the competition's big guns.

"At our best, we can compete with the best couple of nations right at the top of Fed Cup," said Molik, in her first year in the role.

"We've got a really cohesive team as well and that works in our favour."

Barty, meanwhile, said she would take plenty of confidence from the performance on clay into her quest to qualify for next month's French Open.

"Stefanie's been having great success this year and I lost to her late last year so it was good to get one back on her," Barty said of Voegele, who beat three higher-ranked players to reach the semis at the Charleston clay event earlier this month.

"To win such an important tie was really good and hopefully I get the call up again."

AAP