Barty, Birrell to lead Aust at Fed Cup

By Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent
Ashleigh Barty will play American Sofia Kenin in the Fed Cup singles in Asheville

Australian Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik has chosen in-form duo Ashleigh Barty and Kimberly Birrell to play singles in this weekend's first-round, world group Fed Cup tie against the US in Asheville, North Carolina.

Barty, fresh off her recent run to the Australian Open quarter-finals, has a great opportunity to kickstart the tie when she faces American Sofia Kenin in Saturday's (Sunday AEDT) opening singles match.

Birrell, ranked 157 in the world, was also in great form making the third round of the Australian Open and will play America's top-ranked Madison Keys in the second singles rubber.

"Ash obviously is our number one player so she has had a wonderful summer and great month and without question she is playing on the weekend and Kim, to be honest with you, has been on fire," Molik told reporters on Friday.

"She demonstrated at the Australian Open the level she is at currently and she has brought that level to her to Asheville constantly, consistently day after day."

Molik selected Birrell ahead of world No.47 Daria Gavrilova for Australia's second singles slot.

Barty, ranked thirteenth in the world in singles and sixth in doubles, will do the heavy-lifting for Australia.

Barty and 37th-ranked Kenin have only met once before on the WTA circuit, with the Australian comfortably earning a 6-3 6-2 victory in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Barty and Gavrilova will face Nicole Melichar and Danielle Collins in the doubles.

"I'll put everything I possibly can on the line for my country, my captain and team," Barty said.

Birrell is also ready to step up against world No.17 Keys in her opening singles clash.

"Belief does incredible things to athletes and tennis players," Birrell, describing her ascending form, said.

Australia made it back to the world group for the first time since 2015 after battling their way through qualifying rounds.

The winner of this weekend's tie in Asheville will move on to the Fed Cup semi-finals in April against the winners of the Belarus-Germany tie.