Evonne Goolagong Cawley announces the 2003 Optus Australian Fed Cup team
Nicole Pratt (No.53) and Alicia Molik (No.89) will once more lead Australia against Spain in the World Group Fed Cup First Round next month. Announcing the team at Melbourne Park today, Optus Australian Fed Cup captain Evonne Goolagong Cawley also named Samantha Stosur (No. 162) and world No.3 doubles player Rennae Stubbs for the tie, to be contested at the coastal town Tarragona, 100kms south of Barcelona April 26-27.
"The girls have made it a little bit easier on me this year," said Goolagong Cawley, who starts her second year as Fed Cup captain. "A few of the girls had great results during the Australian tour. Nicole Pratt is the type of player that anybody would want on any team really. She gives 100% everytime she goes out there.
"Alicia Molik will be coming back on the team. She did exceptionally well in Wollongong (2002 World Group Qualifying Play-off). It's because of her we got through against the Netherlands. "
Stosur, 18, made her Fed Cup debut against Belgium in the First Round last year and has since improved her ranking from No.268 last April to 162. "By picking Stosur we have a psychological advantage," Goolagong Cawley said. "She has beaten the No.1 Spanish player Conchita Martinez in the first round of the Australian Open. She's part of the Optus Achievers Squad, which is about fast-tracking the players to represent their country, and certainly she took me literally. She really did fast-track."
Rennae Stubbs is the No.3 ranked doubles player in the world, who successfully paired with Molik to clinch last year's tie against the Netherlands.
The Australian team will be competing in American claycourt events as a lead-up to the Fed Cup, leaving for Tarragona over Easter.
"They will have great preparation (in America), practice their sliding. I know it will be a little bit tough, but I still think we have a really good chance of doing well," Goolagong Cawley said.
Spain's leading players are all ranked inside the Top 100, but Australia's chances of winning improved dramatically with the retirement of Spanish Fed Cup stalwart, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley said she had not played in Spain during her own illustrious career. "The first time I went to Spain was to carry the torch in Barcelona and that was through some wheatfield somewhere!"
Did you know?
Spain and Australia have met eight times before in Fed Cup including the 2001 Fed Cup Final Play-offs held in Madrid.
Spain currently leads the two nations' head-to-head tally 6-2.
Spain won the last encounter - at the Madrid final - 3-0. Nicole Pratt and Alicia Molik were both members of this team.
Australia has participated in the Fed Cup for 41 years (since 1963), while Spain debuted at Fed Cup in 1972. The nation has played in teh competition for 32 years.
Australia has been Fed CUp champion seven times. Spain has won the Cup five times.
Should Australia win they will play a home Tie in July against either France or Colombia
Leading Spanish Players 2003
Conchita Martinez No.26
Magui Serna No.42
Virginia Ruano Pascual No.41
Christina Torrens Valero No.80
Captain: Miguel Margets