A jubilant Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia led France to their first Fed Cup title since 2003 yesterday, winning a deciding doubles rubber to defeat Australia 3-2.
In the final tournament played under the current format, the pair kept their focus at the Perth Arena to overcome Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-3, denying the home team their first crown in 45 years.
It was France’s third title and first since they beat the US 16 years ago, piling more misery on seven-time champions Australia, who have now lost all nine of the Fed Cup finals they have contested since their last win. Mladenovic and Garcia, who won the 2016 French Open doubles title, bounced back from going an early break down in the first set to expose Stosur’s weaknesses, with the veteran out-of-sorts and making too many mistakes.
World No. 1 Barty, stunned by Mladenovic in a singles rubber earlier on Sunday, did her best to keep Australia in the hunt, but the French pair were clinical, racing to victory as their teammates went wild.
“I’m the proudest man on the planet right now, I’m so proud of my girls and my team. They deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title,” France captain Julien Benneteau said courtside. “For sure I am going to have a lot of beers now.”
The final marked the last Fed Cup played under the current format, with an overhaul next year seeing 12 nations compete in a six-day event in Budapest.
That will mean an end to home ties and the atmosphere they bring, with the 26,951 fans turning up over two days in Perth the second-highest Fed Cup attendance on record after Roland Garros (30,000) in 2005.
The doubles clash was set up by Ajla Tomljanovic hauling the home team back into the tie by beating France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 7-5. She came on court after 40th-ranked Mladenovic upset Barty 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) in an epic.
Croatian-born Tomljanovic, in her Fed Cup debut for Australia, had been thrashed 6-1, 6-1 by Mladenovic in the opening singles rubber on Saturday.
However, captain Alica Molik kept faith with her and she bounced back to beat Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.
“Really glad I got a second chance today and got the win and kept us in,” Tomljanovic said. “The team has been unbelievable all week and it is such a privilege to play for you guys.”
Earlier Barty, who has been in scintillating form, whipping Garcia 6-0, 6-0 on Saturday after winning the WTA Finals in China last weekend, crashed in a classic.
“From my point of view I fought as hard as I could and I hope that I did my team proud and all Australians proud. I fought with everything I had left,” Barty said.
“I just kept believing because I felt I was out there fighting and giving her a hard battle. I’m just so proud how I kept pushing and obviously won the game,” Mladenovic said.
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