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Fed Cup finale may be a fitting swansong for Stosur

PERTH, Australia -- After 16 years of Fed Cup tennis, Sam Stosur will play in her first final with the chance to cap off her 21-year tennis career on a high and secure Australia its first title in 45 years.

Australia's No. 1 female player between 2008 and 2017, Stosur has ridden the highs and lows of international tennis on her way to one Grand Slam title and six doubles crowns, but in a career that never quite reached the heights it promised, a Fed Cup victory would be the perfect send off.

Dropped from the second singles slot for the final, with world No. 51 Ajla Tomljanovic taking her position, Stosur will wait to see if this weekend's tie is forced to the doubles match in order to make an appearance. Despite taking a back seat in what will likely be her final Fed Cup outing, Stosur is just enjoying the moment.

"It's just amazing to be part of another fantastic team and be in a final, this is what we've all been trying to achieve for a really long time," Stosur said following the Fed Cup draw on Friday. "Now we're here and we've got this opportunity.

"Playing singles or not playing singles, I'm enjoying every single second. I'll be on the sideline with the rest of the girls cheering on Ajla and Ash [Barty] tomorrow and doing whatever we can to contribute to their performance on court.

"Sunday -- if I get the chance to play -- I'll love every single second of it. We're all here together, willing each other on as much as we can."

Peaking at World No. 4 in singles in 2011, Stosur shocked the world that same year when she took down Serena Williams to secure her first Grand Slam title at the US Open. She's added nine WTA titles to her name, and six doubles and mixed doubles titles, but with just one other Grand Slam final appearance -- a 2010 French Open loss to Francesca Schiavone -- the 35-year-old never quite fulfilled her full potential on the singles court.

Most disappointingly for Stosur and Australian fans, her underwhelming form at home -- failing to pass the fourth round at the Australian Open -- has seen her labelled an underachiever throughout her career.

However, her work at Fed Cup level cannot be ignored. Holding the most wins of an Australian player in the current format, Stosur was instrumental in helping Australia return to the Fed Cup final after a 23-year absence and could potentially see the end the 45-year title drought. Her work was acknowledged by the ITF, which presented her with an award ahead of the final draw on Friday.

Facing the media ahead of the final, teammate Barty was full of praise for Stosur and everything she's brought to Australian tennis.

"I don't think I'm leading the way at all, I've got someone sitting next to me right here [Sam Stosur] who has done that for some many years and has been at the very top of our sport," Barty said on Friday. "Sam has paved the path for all of us, we've all grown up watching her, we've had the privilege of playing with her, playing against her, and I think I'm just trying to do my best to run off that."

Following another disappointing season in 2018, Stosur told reporters she wasn't sure how many more Australian summers she had left, but if she chose this summer to be her last, a Fed Cup title would one of her highlights.

"It would be a very special moment if we're able to do this on the weekend. I've had some great moments in my career individually, but I think it's something very different playing as part of a team and as part of a competition like this, it would definitely be right up with one of the highlights of my career and something I'd always remember."