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France Defeats Australia to Win the Fed Cup


PERTH, Australia — Kristina Mladenovic inspired France to a drought-breaking Fed Cup triumph, a nail-biting 3-2 win in the final against Australia on Sunday.

Mladenovic combined with Caroline Garcia to beat Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-3, in the decisive doubles match at Perth Arena. She produced a herculean effort on the outdoor hard court after earlier Sunday upsetting the top-ranked Barty in a three-set thriller to move France into a 2-1 lead.

Barty’s remarkable season ended in heartbreak just one week after she won the WTA Finals and earned a record $4.42 million in prize money. Barty, 23, also claimed her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open in June and reached No. 1 for the first time.

Mladenovic and Garcia, former French Open doubles champions, powered France to their third Fed Cup title and first since 2003. It was redemption for Mladenovic and Garcia, who lost the decisive doubles match against the Czech Republic in the 2016 final.

“We just wanted to take this little revenge for ourselves,” Mladenovic said.

Australia has won the Fed Cup seven times, but the last was in 1974. It has lost the final nine times since.

“We will use this moment for fuel to drive us into the future,” Australia captain Alicia Molik said.

This was the last year the Fed Cup will be played in a yearlong, home-and-away format. In April, a revamped event will comprise 12 teams playing over six days for an $18 million prize on clay courts in Budapest.

Earlier Sunday, No. 51-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic recorded a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Pauline Parmentier in 1 hour 33 minutes to give Australia a chance for the Cup in the decisive doubles match. Tomljanovic rebounded from a dispiriting performance in her Australian Fed Cup debut on Saturday, losing to Mladenovic, 6-1, 6-1.

“I’m really glad I got a second chance and that I got a win,” Tomljanovic said.

To try and clinch the tie for the visitors, France captain Julien Benneteau chose the veteran Parmentier over Garcia, a former top-5 player, who failed to win a game against Barty on Saturday.

Tomljanovic, 26, struggled to consistently land her first serve, but Parmentier, ranked No. 122, could not make her pay,

.

In Sunday’s opening singles match, Mladenovic stunned Barty with a nerve-wrenching 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) victory.

The No. 40-ranked Mladenovic started slowly before taking advantage of an error-strewn Barty, whose 15-match Fed Cup winning streak was ended in a seesaw match lasting 2 hours 31 minutes.

Barty started where she left off against Garcia, firing back-to-back aces to take the first game and then broke Mladenovic’s serve on her way to claiming the first set in 33 minutes.

But Mladenovic, the highest-ranked Frenchwoman, fought her way back into the contest and took advantage of a series of unforced errors by Barty to force a deciding set.

“She was the aggressor, took a few more chances and got the reward out there,” Barty said.

Mladenovic failed to close out the match on serve in the 10th game of the deciding set before dominating Barty in the tiebreaker to produce arguably the best singles victory of her career.

“It’s absolutely epic,” said an emotional Mladenovic after the match. “This one is special because it’s playing in the final for the country in front of an amazing, packed crowd.”


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