Australia’s bid to end a 45-year sporting drought has ended in heartbreak, with France winning the Fed Cup final 3-2 in Perth.
In front of a full house at Perth Arena, the Australians fell short, prolonging the wait for a first local victory in the competition since 1974.
Fed Cup final: Australia v France
- Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-1, 6-1
- Ash Barty (AUS) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-0, 6-0
- Mladenovic bt Barty 2-6, 6-4, 7-6
- Tomljanovic bt Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 6-4, 7-5
- Garcia / Mladenovic bt Barty / Sam Stosur (AUS) 6-4, 6-3
FRANCE wins Fed Cup 3-2
World number one Ash Barty and Sam Stosur faced France’s Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the decisive doubles rubber, but could not get the win, going down 6-4, 6-3.
Barty and Stosur broke in the opening game, but Garcia and Mladenovic levelled with a break of Stosur’s serve at 2-2.
The French were targeting Stosur, who was playing her first match of the final.
Games went with serve until Garcia and Mladenovic struck again in the 10th game, breaking Barty to win the first set 6-4.
The French kept things going in the second set, with Stosur broken in the second game to give the visitors a big advantage.
Garcia had three break points against her the following game, but the French held on to consolidate the break.
Time began to run out for the Australians, and despite their best efforts, Barty and Stosur could not get the break back.
Mladenovic held serve to complete the win, securing France’s third Fed Cup title, and the country’s first since 2003.
Day two of the final had begun at Perth Arena with the two teams level at 1-1 — but the French took the lead, when Barty was beaten by France’s Mladenovic in three sets.
Then Fed Cup debutant Ajla Tomljanovic bounced back from a big loss on day one to defeat Pauline Parmentier in straight sets to level the final once more.
On day one of competition, France had taken the early advantage when Mladenovic dismantled Tomlanovic 6-1, 6-1, but Barty produced an almost perfect performance to deny Caroline Garcia a single game, winning 6-0, 6-0 to level the tie.
Day two started with an epic between Barty and Mladenovic.
The world number one broke the Frenchwoman in game two and took control, racing to a 5-2 lead in the first set.
Two quick errors brought Mladenovic back to deuce in the eighth game, and then a brilliant cross-court forehand from Barty set up set-point.
The Australian hit a fierce dipping return of serve that Mladenovic could only tip into the net — the first set was Barty’s 6-2, after 34 minutes.
Barty went to four deuces before holding for 1-0 in the second set. Games then went with serve.
Mladenovic went up 0-30 in the seventh game — however Barty went on to hold, fist-pumping as she went off court.
Barty forced two break points in the next game but netted returns on both opportunities as Mladenovic held on for 4-4.
The advantage swung to the Frenchwoman minutes later, as Mladenovic forced an error from Barty to grab the break for a 5-4 lead.
Mladenovic then quietened the crowd, holding serve to level the match at one set apiece.
Games went on serve to start the final set, but Mladenovic broke Barty to lead 2-1.
The Australian then had three break point opportunities in the sixth game — she missed the first two before a Mladenovic error made it 3-3 as the crowd erupted.
Games went on serve to 4-4, but it fell apart for Barty in the ninth game, as she was broken to love.
Mladenovic came out to serve for the match, but the adrenaline pushed her swinging volley long for 0-15.
Barty took advantage, pushing her opponent round the court to get to three break points. She needed one, levelling at 5-5.
The Australian double faulted in the next game to bring up break point, but recovered with an ace down the T.
Mladenovic answered with a brilliant dipping return that forced an error, but Barty saved the second break point with a great serve before winning the game with an incredible stop volley to hold for 6-5.
The set went to a tie-break. Mladenovic took the early mini-break, but Barty answered immediately for 1-1.
The Frenchwoman then hooked a forehand winner to break for 3-1, and a Barty error made things harder for Australia, as the French fans chanted “Kiki!”.
An ace to Mladenovic made it five match points at 6-1, and then she forced one final error from the Australian to clinch the match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6.
Tomjlanovic hits back for the Aussies
The win was a big blow to Australia’s chances, and French tennis player Lucas Pouille was one who posted on social media congratulating Mladenovic.
There was drama ahead of the fourth rubber, as Australia opted to keep Tomljanovic in place for the reverse singles despite her nervous performance on Saturday.
The French team, on the other hand, chose to replace Garcia with 33-year-old veteran Pauline Parmentier, the world number 122.
Tomljanovic had admitted to feeling nerves against Mladenovic in her Fed Cup debut for Australia.
Now the pressure was on her to keep Australia’s hopes alive.
Tomljanovic held her opening few service games as the crowd got right behind her.
Parmentier did likewise, and games went on serve until the 10th game of the match.
The Australian won consecutive points to get to 15-40 and two set points. Parmentier saved one, but not the second, as Tomljanovic sealed the first set in 41 minutes.
The second set was tight until Tomljanovic made the breakthrough, breaking Parmentier to lead 4-2.
The experience of the French player told, as she broke straight back and then held for 4-4.
The tension rose as Parmentier raised the pressure on the Australian, but Tomljanovic held for 6-5, and then with the crowd roaring her home, she set up two match points.
Parmentier served down the middle, Tomljanovic rifled a two-handed backhand close to the baseline, jamming her opponent who could only hit the net with her return.