'I'd be lying': Aussie captain's huge admission about Ash Barty

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Pictured here, Ash Barty salutes fans after winning a match in 2021.
Ash Barty is back home in Australia after a marathon and hugely successful 2021. Pic: Getty

Australia's captain Alicia Molik says there's no use pretending that Ash Barty's absence didn't have an enormous impact on her side in the recent Billie Jean King Cup.

An inexperienced Aussie side - minus the World No.1 - performed admirably in an unexpected push to the semi-finals of the tournament, where they were ousted by eventual runners-up Switzerland.

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Barty had made her intentions clear of returning home to Australia after a marathon year that included her maiden Wimbledon grand slam title, as well as a bronze medal in the mixed doubles at the Olympic Games.

The 25-year-old has also made herself unavailable for the season-ending WTA finals - a tournament typically reserved for the top eight players in the world.

While the likes of Aussie understudy Storm Sanders performed superbly in Prague to spearhead her side in the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly the Fed Cup), Molik admits that Barty's absence was definitely felt.

"Between us as a team, we hadn't had many ties and I'd be lying if I said we didn't miss Ash immensely," admitted Molik.

"But I think at the same time, having a young team means that everyone has to be responsible and step up and that teaches you a lot of lessons.

"For the younger players to have that sense of responsibility to their team and their country and meet that need to really step up was important.

"My team through the week has put in an incredible performance all week. I'm incredibly proud."

Cup organisers hope new changes to the timetable will see the World No.1 and other stars compete in next year's finals.

If Barty is on board next year, Molik is confident the experience picked up by her understudies will be invaluable.

It was announced on Saturday, before Russia won the 2021 Cup, that next year's finals of the revamped Fed Cup will be held a week later than this year's edition - from November 8-13 - with organisers saying they're working with the women's tour to allow more top players to attend.

Many top players, including the world's top three - Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, and Czech Karolina Pliskova - didn't play, as it was too close to the end-of-season WTA Finals which start on Wednesday in Mexico.

On Saturday, Australia were handed a home draw against Slovakia in the 2022 BJK Cup qualifiers, which will delight Molik and Australian No.2 player Alicia Molik, who both admitted they had missed the vocal home support that they'd enjoyed in Perth in the 2019 final.

Molik's team will have to win the tie on April 15 and 16 to again qualify for the finals at an as yet unnamed venue, but it's not known yet whether Barty will be available to compete in the qualifier.

Seen here, Ash Barty hits a shot against Danielle Collins during a match in Adelaide.
Australia's team will hope to have World No.1 Ash Barty back for their next qualifier in the Billie Jean King Cup. Pic: Getty

2022 qualifiers draw (home teams first)

Australia v Slovakia

France v Italy

United States v Ukraine

Czech Republic v Great Britain

Belarus v Belgium

Kazakhstan v Germany

Canada v Latvia

Netherlands v Spain

Poland v Romania

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