TENNIS: A change to the structure of the Fed Cup means Australia can be a contender, captain Alicia Molik said after a 4-0 win over Serbia in the World Group II playoff in Zrenjanin.
After being defeated by the Ukraine in February, the Aussies slipped into the seond World Group but with the International Tennis Federation looking likely to agree to a 16-team World Group in August, the young team looks set to be back in the elite group when the 2018 competition begins in February.
"It's where we belong and where we feel we deserve to be," Molik said.
"We are so dangerous and it's open slather next season. We can be contenders."
Daria Gavrilova had a 6-0 6-3 win over World No. 130 Nina Stojanovic before the doubles pairing of Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua made it a 4-0 clean sweep with a 6-1 7-5 victory on day two after Gavrilova and Barty had got the visitors off to a flying start on day one.
"It feels great. Everyone contributed," Molik said.
"It's a different feeling to get it done in four rubbers.
"The girls have been unbelievable all week, it's a nice feeling and we will be celebrating tonight."
Molik was also full of praise for teenager Destanee Aiava even though she did not play in Serbia.
"I think it's a nice balance to have Destanee," she said.
"She's brought a great level to practice sessions and pushed everyone all week.
"It's been a pleasure to get to know her better."
Belarus became the first team into the Fed Cup final, winning its tie 3-1 over Switzerland.
CoCo Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Kristyna Pliskova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2 6-3 to send the US to their first Fed Cup final in seven years with a 3-2 victory over three-time defending champion Czech Republic.
The final will be on November 11-12.