February 8, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Alicia, take me through the decision-making process for the singles lineup, going with Kim. I think it's her second time starting as a singles player in Fed Cup.
CAPTAIN MOLIK: Ash obviously is our number one player, so she's had a wonderful summer, a great month. Without question, she is playing on the weekend.
Kim, to be honest with you, has been on fire. She demonstrated during the Australian Open what level she's at currently. She's brought that level here to Asheville with her constantly, consistently, day after day. That's the reason that Kim is playing on Saturday.
Yeah, she's proven it very consistently that she's playing at that high level. We think she can win.
Q. Kim, I know you had a third round run at the Australian Open, your best major to date. How would you describe the way your game is coming together this past month or so.
KIMBERLY BIRRELL: ^ yeah, I feel like I've had an awesome last month or so, few weeks. Six months really I feel like I've been playing at, yeah, a consistent level day in, day out. I think I really proved to myself mainly that this is the level I want to be at.
Yeah, just to hear Mol say those words is incredible. Yeah, belief does incredible things to athletes and tennis players especially. Yeah, I feel very proud and can't wait for the weekend.
Q. Alicia, can you talk a little bit about the fact obviously Australia hasn't been in the semis of Fed Cup since 2014, and what it would mean to be able to advance.
CAPTAIN MOLIK: It would be amazing. We want that reward, though, because we've worked so hard the last four or five years to get back to the World Group I. We feel and we believe that we are a team good enough to be there consistently.
To have to go through qualifying World Group II, it's been a lot of hard work. We've had to maintain a committed group. Finally we're World Group I. We want to grab it with both arms in particular. We want to leave everything out on the court. We don't want to leave Asheville with any regrets.
Q. A little assessment, without giving away any secrets, of how you view the U.S. team.
CAPTAIN MOLIK: There's no secrets.
Well, Madison Keys at the spearhead of Team USA, she's a dangerous player, really aggressive. She knows how to perform on the big stage. I think a lot of different factors come into performing at Fed Cup. It's not just the form, but how you perform in front of the home crowd with expectations on your shoulders.
Our team is really familiar with Maddie. She's had a wonderful career so far. She's a player to watch. I think she'll be heavily relied on over the weekend.
Q. Ash, you're on an eight-match winning streak in Fed Cup. There was a time when you weren't sure about tennis, whatever, but it seems like you really are taking on the role and the responsibility. Talk a little bit about that.
ASHLEIGH BARTY: There are no greater weeks and better weeks in the year than when you get to wear Australia on your back, wear the green and gold. I think the group that Mol, Pratty, our whole team has created is an amazing group. We're all so committed to coming back and playing Fed Cup. They're such fun weeks.
I think it's a bonus that I get to have someone of Mol's caliber sitting on the side of the court with me. We chat through everything. We leave no stone unturned in preparation. I know when I go out on the court, I trust myself.
My team, not only that I have here, but that I have back home, we go through the same process preparing for any match. If it is a first round, quarterfinal, final of Fed Cup match, doesn't matter to me. I get to come out here and enjoy, but there is certainly is extra incentive when I'm playing Fed Cup for Australia.
Q. (Question to Ash's about first singles match.)
ASHLEIGH BARTY: Yeah, I played Sofia once before in Charleston last year. Obviously different surface. I believe that she's a different player now. She's developed as a player and person, matured on and off the court, is certainly playing some of her best tennis. We saw that when she played Halep at the Australian Open. She was very, very close to winning that match. Simona is world No. 1 in the world for a reason, was at that time.
It's an extremely tough matchup for me. I'll go back and prepare as best that I can, hopefully get my team off to the best start possible. I know that all the girls back me to go out there and try to do my job.
Regardless of the result, I'll leave everything out there.
Q. (Question about Ash and Dash in doubles.)
CAPTAIN MOLIK: Yes, the names rhyme. Ash and Dash practice a lot through the year together. They're incredibly familiar with each other. I think that's what makes for a good partnership. When you have a good relationship together, you're aware of what each other are going to do on the court almost before you execute it.
I think that's the beauty in two players knowing each other so well, knowing what to expect from each other.
Q. Kim, what about you and Madison's match?
KIMBERLY BIRRELL: ^ I've never played her before. Obviously I have watched her play quite a lot. Yeah, I feel like I know her pretty well. We've done a lot of preparing throughout the week. Kind of expected she was going to play singles. Yeah, I'm not sure if she's probably done the same for me. I think I have maybe a little bit of an advantage, not as many people have seen me play as much.
No matter what, I'll definitely go out there and try my best, play with my heart, yeah, leave it all out there.
Q. Daria, not the best start to 2019 by your standards. How does coming together with this group help you turn that around with their support?
DARIA GAVRILOVA: I think, yeah, this week has been pretty amazing for me. I feel like I've been improving on court. I think we're all really good friends off the court, but we all get really competitive in the practices. I think it's a lot of fun.
I think with the help of Alicia and Pratty, I've been really making gains with a few technical things.
Q. Ash, potentially three matches in two days. Have you ever done that before in Fed Cup? How would you describe the mental and physical effort you need to put in to come out on top after that?
ASHLEIGH BARTY: Yeah, I had the privilege of playing three matches in one weekend for Australia in Canberra last year. To play a last match with Casey was extra special, her last professional match that she played.
I'll certainly play whenever Mol asks me. I'll be ready to go in any and every situation, know that these weeks don't come around very often. I have to go out there and play with my all, put everything I possibly can on the line for my country, my captain, my team, enjoy every moment.
These weeks are really the best weeks of your career.
Q. Have you done anything fun here in Asheville? What is your impression of Asheville?
PRISCILLA HON: ^ we've eaten everywhere. Kim has gone to the spa, which we haven't seen (laughter). We tried to go on hunting for (indiscernible). Still on the hunt for that.
CAPTAIN MOLIK: It's a beautiful city. We've enjoyed it. I think what we've enjoyed most is the contrast with the weather. The Australian Open is in the middle of the hot summer, a lot of 40-degree days. To come away, have a bit of fresh air, yeah, it's a nice change for us.
ASHLEIGH BARTY: For Aussies to bring out our winter wardrobes is really nice.
KIMBERLY BIRRELL: Everybody is really nice. It's been an awesome week.
Q. (No microphone.)
ASTRA SHARMA: ^ yeah, no, just to even be here, getting to wear this jacket, means absolutely the world. As I said, yesterday training with these girls is inspirational. I'm seeing the level they're playing at. To constantly push myself to meet that is something that's very beneficial for me.
No, I'm just so proud to be able to help or serve in any capacity to help the squad because it's such an honor to be here.
PRISCILLA HON: To actually be on the team is so special, being orange girl a couple years ago. I love playing for my country. I played Junior Fed Cup. They were the best weeks of my career so far.
Obviously I grew up watching Mol on TV. Having her help me with my game now, I couldn't ask for anything else. Ash and dash, it's up to you guys. I see Ash a bit more, just see what she does every day training. She's always giving her best every day. Kim, I played my first match against Kim. She smashed me, but anyway (laughter). We've grown up together. We've had the same coaches. To have you as a teammate now is awesome.
Astra, I haven't seen you much since you've been at college, I'm sure we'll be on tour and see a lot of each other.
ASTRA SHARMA: When I got to play a couple years ago, it was the most incredible week. I have fond memories of getting to wear green and gold. To be back here is so special.
Yeah, we're all really great friends. I feel like we all really have an awesome dynamic off the court. Then we have a lot of fun. On the court we have a job to do, work really hard.
Yeah, it's awesome to get to spend more time and get to know everybody even more. Yeah, more than anything, we really support each other. It's not just about this week, it's every week on the tour. Getting to be in a team environment is awesome because tennis is an individual sport, there's some tough days on the road.
Yeah, I'm trying to enjoy every second. I don't want this week to end.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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