Judy Murray a 'fantastic' Fed Cup captain - Elena Baltacha

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport

British number one Elena Baltacha says Judy Murray is a "fantastic" appointment as Great Britain's new Fed Cup captain.

Murray was named last week as the replacement for Nigel Sears, who left to coach Serbia's Ana Ivanovic.

Leon Smith, the Davis Cup captain and Lawn Tennis Association's head of women's and men's tennis, consulted Baltacha before appointing Murray.

"I think the decision is absolutely fantastic," Baltacha told BBC Sport.

"I think he couldn't have picked a better person for the job. She brings so much experience to it, so much knowledge, and it will just be so nice to have her there."

Baltacha, 28, added: "I remember Judy taking me on some trips at under-14, under-16 and under-18 tournaments. She was a great captain then and she will be now. She's a tough cookie and she won't put up with any nonsense."

Britain's next Fed Cupexternal-link tie will be the 15-team Europe/Africa Zone qualifier in Israel from 1-4 February, with only the top two teams securing play-off places for the World Group II.

Murray will be able to call on top-100 players in fellow Scot Baltacha, England's Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson, as well as top-200 players Laura Robson and Naomi Broady.

"That's the exciting thing - finally the women are now doing good and we're all pushing each other," said Baltacha.

"There will be a good team there, so fingers crossed we can do some damage when we get to the week and hopefully we can qualify into the World Group."

She added: "We've come really close before, but this year we've got a very, very strong team and hopefully we can get to that next stage, get ourselves into that play-off and go through.

The appointment of Murray, the mother of British number one Andy and doubles specialist Jamie, is likely to draw greater interest around the British Fed Cup team than in previous years, but Baltacha is confident they can cope.

"Heather and Laura have had a lot of interest in the media, and of course me and Anne, we're kind of the older, veterans of the team. We've had a lot of experience of that and we're there to do a job and that's it."

Baltacha has enjoyed the best year of her career in 2011,external-link ending the season ranked 51 in the world and having won a round in all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first first time.

"Physically, I think I'm in better shape, but the reason why I've had such a great year, even better than last year, is mentally I feel much stronger," said the Ipswich-based player. "Pre-season is going absolutely fantastic, I've been working very, very hard, and I know that next year's a big year for me.

"It kind of feels like everything's coming together, all the hard work and all the experiences I've picked up from the last two years of playing on the WTA Tour - I really feel like I can push on and do something really special."

Baltacha believes her target of reaching the second week of a Grand Slam event and a place in the last 16 is "definitely possible" and, having previously said she would retire at the end of next year, she could well play on beyond 2012.

"Having gone through the whole nine years of being stuck on the ITF circuit, then experiencing two great years with what I've achieved on the WTA Tour, I think it would be a waste if I said 'No, forget it'," she said.

"If I'm injury free, I still love it and I feel I can push on, then I'll keep going."