Evonne Goolagong Cawley says she sees a bit of herself in Ashleigh Barty's game as Australia bids for its first Fed Cup title since 1974.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley was already a fan of Ashleigh Barty's game but watching her hit a slice backhand has convinced the tennis great she can lead Australia to its first Fed Cup title in 45 years.
Goolagong Cawley was the spearhead when Australia last won the title in 1974 and she was in the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena on Saturday as Barty levelled their semi-final with a quality Belarus outfit 1-1.
Now No.9 in the world, Barty produced some fine tennis to beat former world No.1 and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 after Samantha Stosur lost the opener 7-5 5-7 6-3 to world No.10 Aryna Sabalenka.
Goolagong Cawley was gushing in her praise of the 22-year-old from Ipswich and made special mention of the slice backhand she used to pick apart a free-swinging Azarenka.
"She's got great hands, fantastic, it (the slice backhand) was something I enjoyed in my career," she said.
"Every time I saw her do that I thought 'oh that must have felt good'.
"A lot of the players today, with the style and grip, don't seem to like that shot and it's helped her get through a lot of matches."
Goolagong Cawley's memory of her last Fed Cup triumph is hazy but she is certain Barty can beat Sabalenka in Sunday's reverse singles and then if required, lead Australia to a home final with victory in the fifth doubles rubber.
But she didn't stop there, predicting big things for the Queenslander as soon as May's French Open.
"It's such a pleasure to watch Ash play. She's got so many skills, has improved out of sight," she said.
"Yeah she's getting there, I think she's quite capable of winning a grand slam and has proved it already.
"She's got so much more confidence now than I've ever seen and seems to be really enjoying it out there ... the world's her oyster."