Australia can no longer afford a slip-up in their Fed Cup tie against the United States with Daria Gavrilova and Samantha Stosur both collapsing to hand the visitors a commanding 2-0 lead.
Gavrilova was beaten in straight sets by world No.22 Madison Keys in her debut appearance in green and gold on Saturday, while Stosur was upset by Christina McHale at Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane.
One more defeat on Sunday will confirm the USA’s jump into the eight-nation World Group I next year and continue Australia’s 42-year Fed Cup drought.
And that’s without the presence of America’s top three singles players – Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens – who all were unable to commit to the tie.
“No question, we’d prefer to be at 1-1 at worst,” captain Alicia Molik said.
“But it is what it is and we have been there before. We know the feeling – it is about regrouping, believing and trusting ourselves tomorrow.
“I think Dasha and Sam can rise to the level tomorrow. It’s an enormous task for us (but) it’s about Dasha and Sam continuing to do what makes them great players on the singles court and really backing themselves.”
Stosur shrugged off suggestions the weight of expectation or pressure from her hometown crowd might have been behind her 3-6 6-1 7-5 defeat to McHale, ranked No.57 in the world, on the temporary clay surface installed at the venue.
The top-ranked Australian had a meltdown in the second set, which lasted just 25 minutes, making 11 unforced errors as McHale seized the momentum to register her first win over Stosur in five attempts.
“Overall, she had a lot better composure in the really important moments,” Stosur said.
“There’s nothing wrong with the way that I played, I just had to do that little bit more.”
Earlier, Gavrilova was overpowered in a 6-4 6-2 defeat to Keys, whose booming serve was too much for the Russian-born starlet to handle.
US captain Mary Joe Fernandez provided a selection shock by nominating McHale for singles ahead of the higher-ranked Coco Vandeweghe but it proved a stroke of genius.
“It’s easy to look back and say good decision,” said Fernandez.
“(But) that second match could have gone either way. It was really tight at the end – a couple of points made the difference.
“Madison started us off on a very positive note which always helps. So far, so good.”
The reverse singles rubbers, as well as a doubles clash between Stosur and Casey Dellacqua and Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, will be played on Sunday.