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Barty, Keys set for titanic Fed Cup clash with Australia, US locked 1-1

“For me it is an opportunity to go out there and play for my country and enjoy the fact I have the privilege of putting on the green and gold and wearing Australia on my back.”

Keys, ranked 17th in the world, evened the tie with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 win over Queensland’s Kimberly Birrell at Asheville’s US Cellular Center indoor arena.

Madison Keys easily accounted for Kimberly Birrell.

Madison Keys easily accounted for Kimberly Birrell.Credit:AP

The Barty-Keys singles clash on Sunday (5am Monday AEDT) could dictate the winner of the world group first round tie.

“That’s what you want on day two – the number ones going at it,” Australian team captain Alicia Molik said.

“It’s going to be really interesting.”

Birrell, ranked 157th after her third round Australian Open effort, will play 37th ranked Kenin in the second singles rubber.

Barty and Daria Gavrilova will face American duo Nicole Melichar and Danielle Collins in what could be the deciding doubles rubber in the five-game format.

Molik followed form when selecting her team, going with Birrell over world number 47 Gavrilova for the second singles slot.

Gavrilova has had a horror run in 2019, failing to win a match including a first round departure at the Australian Open while Birrell was impressive making the third round in Melbourne.

Birrell’s inexperience, however, showed as she was outclassed by the heavy-hitting Keys.

“I did the best I could but the weight behind her shot was definitely different to anything I have really felt before,” Birrell said.

Australia are desperate for a win.

It is the first time they have played in the Fed Cup world group since 2015.

The winner of the US-Australia tie will move on to play Belarus or Germany in the Fed Cup semi-finals in April.

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