Australia's Ashleigh Barty heads for victory over the Netherlands' Quirine Lemoine in the second rubber of the Tennis Fed Cup World Group playoff in Wollongong on Saturday.
Australia's Ashleigh Barty heads for victory over the Netherlands' Quirine Lemoine in the second rubber of the Tennis Fed Cup World Group playoff in Wollongong on Saturday. CRAIG GOLDING

Barty levels ties after Stosur loses to world No.295

ASHLEIGH Barty has levelled Australia's Fed Cup World Group playoff against the Netherlands with a commanding straight-sets win over Quirine Lemoine.

Barty, the world No.19, outclassed her 295th-ranked opponent 6-0 6-2 after world No.210 Lesley Kerkhove stunned Samantha Stosur 7-5 7-6 (7-1) to give the depleted Dutch a surprise early lead in the indoor tie at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

An out-of-sorts Stosur racked up 30 unforced errors in slumping to a 7-5 7-6 (7-1) loss in Saturday's opening singles rubber.

Australian captain Alicia Molik had opted for Stosur over the higher-ranked Daria Gavrilova despite the former US Open champion tumbling to 58th in the world and losing six of her past eight Fed Cup singles rubbers.

But few could have predicted Molik's selection gamble backfiring so spectacularly.

Back in the green and gold for the first time in almost two years, Stosur made a shaky start, framing two forehands to drop serve in the opening game of the match.

She hit straight back, though, firing a nerve-settling off-forehand winner before two double-faults and a backhand error from Kerkhove allowed the Australian to get back on level terms.

A ferocious backhand return winner earned Stosur a second break in the fourth game and Australia's most prolific Fed Cup singles winner appeared to be up and running.

But half an hour and a bagful of unforced errors later, Stosur found herself a set down.

Typically, it was an overcooked forehand from Stosur that handed Kerkhove the set.

Australia's former grand slam champion steadied in the second set, holding serve for four successive games only to rue a huge opportunity lost after blowing three consecutive break points while leading 4-3.

Instead of being presented with a chance to serve out the set, Stosur was forced into a tiebreaker - and the little-known Kerkhove seized the moment to score the biggest win of her career.

"It's an amazing feeling. I'm really happy about this match," Kerkhove said after clubbing 21 winners to Stosur's 10.

"Sam is a great player and the way I played today was the only way I could win."

Molik will consider replacing Stosur with the higher-ranked Daria Gavrilova or teenage ace Destanee Aiava for Sunday's reserve singles.

- AAP



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