Canberra will host Australia’s best female players in a Fed Cup tie against the Ukraine in February after Tennis ACT secured its first major event at its $27 million facility.
The 32 courts at Lyneham are plexipave and clay which means more money will be poured into the venue after Canberra tennis officials agreed to play the tie on grass at the request of Australian skipper Alicia Molik.
Natural grass will be laid on top of the existing hardcourt, while practice facilities will also be built to accommodate an Australian side featuring Ash Barty, Dasha Gavrilova, Sam Stosur and Casey Dellacqua.
Tennis ACT boss Kim Kachel said the added costs was money well spent if it gave Australian the best chance of winning and returning to the World Group.
“There are costs involved but we’re always keen to put down the best surface possible to give our team the best chance of winning and obviously Ash and Casey and Dasha love grass,” Kachel said.
“They’ll start to lay the grass pretty much straight after our challenger event on January 13, that’s when it will start to be bumped in and they’ll drop it in on the existing hardcourt.
“We’ve been assured a month is plenty of time for the court to settle and be right and ready for when the team arrives post Aussie Open and they’ll be able to start practising straight away.”
Australia’s World Group II first round clash against the Ukraine on February 10-11 is a massive step for the capital after rejoining the national tournament schedule.
It marks the Canberra Tennis Centre’s first major test since opening two years ago and shows Tennis Australia view the capital as an important growth area.
Tennis ACT has been bidding for the rights to host Fed Cup and Davis Cup for the past two years to capitalise on Nick Kyrgios’ rise to international fame.
Kachel admitted the event could act as a precursor to bringing Kyrgios home for Davis Cup action, but emphasised his focus was on the women’s event for now.
“I’m sure there will be other opportunities down the track for more of these types of ties but our real focus is on hosting the best Fed Cup tie possible and showcasing Canberra and it’s wonderful facilities,” Kachel said.
“I’m sure this will be a great example of the facility’s capability…. We’re just ecstatic to be hosting a world-class tie at a world-class facility and couldn’t be happier to bring a Fed Cup tie to Canberra.
“I’ve no doubt the public will come out in droves to support our elite Australian athletes. Ashleigh Barty is fresh off winning the Newcombe Medal and the current Australian team is one of the strongest we’ve seen in a long time.”
Australian No. 1 Barty hit the top 20 and is ranked No.17 while Gavrilova is ranked at 25, Stosur No.41 and Dellacqua is No.10 in doubles.
“It’s a fantastic advantage to play a Fed Cup tie on home soil and we hope to see a very loud and patriotic crowd at the Canberra Tennis Centre in February,” Molik said.
“We’ve chosen grass as we believe that will give us the very best chance to win. Ash, Dasha, Sam and Casey are all tremendous players and are keen to do everything they can to get us over the line and into the elite top eight in Fed Cup.
“This is an important tie for both teams to potentially return to the elite world group and we expect a fierce battle. We played the Ukraine away in February this year and we know just how good they are.
“Elina Svitolina is ranked No. 6 in the world so it will be tough, but we’re excited for the challenge and looking forward to a great tie.”
Tickets to the Canberra Fed Cup tie will be on sale to the public next week.