This story was written by Nicole Hunt.
In the opening game on day two of the Fed Cup tie between Australia and the Netherlands, Aussie Ash Barty was 0-30 down only to then fire off an unplayable serve followed by two aces. She fought back calmly to win that game despite the slight delay caused by the ringing of a phone in the crowd.
She looks steady but she doesn’t get it all her own way. She gets a break opportunity in the 8th game but can’t convert it on the scoreboard. I don’t think I’ve seen Ash so athletic and she seems more and more comfortable on court. Yesterday even the captain of the Netherlands team said publicly just how impressed he was with Ash’s game. She takes the first set 6-4 and they trade breaks to start the second set.
The Fed Cup is the largest women’s sporting teams event in the world with more than 100 countries competing. That’s a lot of amazing women! Even here in the Wollongong Entertainment Centre I’m struck by the realisation that I’m surrounded by so many strong women. There’s both teams of course, and our captain and former player Alicia Molik.
Even chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore is an inspiring woman. She was the first chair umpire to officiate a men’s singles final at the US Open. Right now Eva is overseeing this Fed Cup tie, which she might consider a walk in the park. I’ve watched Eva over the years take on some of the biggest names in tennis when they’ve tried to throw a tantrum on her court and she was having none of it. Eva runs a tight ship.
Ash breaks in the 6th and just when it looks like they’ll trade breaks again, Ash recovers from 0-40 with incredible serving to take the game. She ends it in straight sets with a 6-2 win. The crowd is rapturous of course. Winning the tie will put us back in the World Group (top 8) and competing for the finals next year. We’re one win away.
One amazing woman who’s not here is Casey Dellacqua. Casey played the last tie to a great green and gold victory but decided just weeks ago that she was retiring from tennis to spend more time with her family. She’s been such a formidable doubles pairing with Ash. She’s much missed not only for her tennis but for her spirit and her love of the game, but I really hope we don’t need her today. The next singles match is critical. We’re 2-1 up and the next would seal it.
Dasha Gavrilova comes out in the second rubber of the day and plays with a pure controlled aggression that I haven’t seen from her before. It’s inspiring. She came into this tie eager to represent Australia and improve her Fed Cup record and she’s marching on toward that goal relentlessly.
Casey Dellacqua will be inspiring to me even in retirement. Kim Clijsters, Belgian Fed Cup great, former world number one and 4 times grand slam singles winner may have retired in 2012 but she still loves the game and is another inspiring woman on courtand off. Kim recently posted a photo of a new tennis racquet on Instagram and I asked her if she still gets excited about new tennis gear after all this time.
‘Yes I do, very much so! Childhood dreams and memories’ she replied.
Women doing what they want, and doing it with passion and conviction. It’s hard not to be swept along with them.
Dasha looks untroubled and wins her match in straight sets letting out a huge scream when she takes the final point. Her joy is contagious as always. Australia is back into the World Group!
They celebrate as a team and Dasha does a lap of the arena with the Aussie flag floating behind her.
The crowd is thrilled and I don’t think it’s just me who can feel this new era of womens sport enveloping us. AFLW fans will know what I mean.
After the celebrations the arena screen cuts to a video package of Alicia and the team meeting the PM in Canberra at the last Fed Cup tie. Alicia gives him some sound advice and I think I might take a bit of it too. She says ‘when in doubt chip and charge, and remember you’re only as good as your second serve.’