Ashleigh Barty leads Australia’s Fed Cup team (PA Sports)
The Fed Cup final could go all the way to the fifth rubber as Ashleigh Barty and Kristina Mladenovic prepare to face off in a crucial clash on day 2.
*Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to customers with an active balance
Dominant wins for Ashleigh Barty and Kristina Mladenovic have left the Fed Cup final between Australia and France poised at 1-1 heading into day 2 – can world no. 1 Barty lead her team to a first Fed Cup title since 1974?
Day 1 Results
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-1, 6-1
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) d. Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-0, 6-0
Day one in Perth saw the top singles player on each team turn in incredibly dominant performances to leave the final poised at 1-1.
It was a disastrous Fed Cup debut for Croatian-born Ajla Tomljanovic, who has only recently been ruled eligible to play for her adopted country, as she was demolished 1-6, 1-6 in just 72 minutes by Kristina Mladenovic, who claimed her ninth Fed Cup singles win.
Australia needed to respond in kind and up stepped world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who managed to one-up Mladenovic by double-bagelling former top-10 player Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-0 in less than an hour. Barty turned in a sublime display of her signature all-court tennis to claim the 57th singles victory of her season and said it was ‘probably the best match I’ve played in my life’.
Day 2 schedule & previews
NB: Player nominations can be changed until an hour before the scheduled start of play
Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs Kristina Mladenovic (FRA), 11am local/3am GMT
The two players who scored dominant wins on day one clash early on day two in what could be a decisive rubber in this Fed Cup final.
Barty was on terrific form on Saturday (PA Sports)
The player who wins will put their country up 2-1 heading into the final two rubbers, and while it would put France in a dream position to go up 2-1, it’s absolutely vital for Australia to win this one if they are to have any chance of claiming their first Fed Cup title since 1974. Tomljanovic’s performance on day one was really poor and it’s unlikely that she (or Samantha Stosur) would be able to beat Caroline Garcia in the fourth rubber, meaning that Australia’s route to victory is for Barty to win this singles rubber, then very probably turn around and win the doubles, too.
Fortunately for the hosts, Barty couldn’t be on better form as she suits up for the last day of her career-best season. The world no. 1 was utterly brilliant against Garcia on Saturday, turning in a flawless performance, and is currently on a 14-match winning streak in Fed Cup (singles and doubles) matches, with a 10-1 win-loss record in singles.
Mladenovic is an excellent Fed Cup player and generally, with her big power game, athleticism and brutal forehand, a much better player than her ranking would suggest; she’s also beaten Barty in one of their two previous meetings, so the challenge of the Frenchwoman is not to be underestimated. Mladenovic beat Barty 6-2, 6-3 in Rome this spring, shortly before the Australian went on to win the French Open; Barty won their only other encounter by an almost identical scoreline, 6-3, 6-2 in Eastbourne last year. Based on how Barty played yesterday against Garcia, a similar straight-sets win might be on the cards for the Australian on Sunday, but she will have to be very, very good against Mladenovic, who will go all out to drag Barty into a lengthy, draining battle.
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) vs Caroline Garcia (FRA), to follow
It’s not easy to make one’s Fed Cup debut in a final in front of a home crowd, and Tomljanovic – who one does not think of as a player who deals well with pressure – had a brutal introduction to playing for Australia with her 1-6, 1-6 defeat to Mladenovic on Saturday.
Garcia was treated equally brutally with her 0-6, 0-6 defeat to Barty, but the more experienced Frenchwoman should display more resilience. With an overall 11-5 win-loss record in Fed Cup singles, Garcia does play well in this environment and although she and Tomljanovic have never faced off before, Tomljanovic’s big power game won’t be an uncomfortable match-up for the similarly aggressive Garcia; she’s not going to have to hit too many balls or deal with too much variety against the Australian.
Australian captain Alicia Molik might as a consequence decide to bench Tomljanovic, who it feels like doesn’t have a chance, in favour of another player, perhaps Samantha Stosur, who is extremely experienced in Fed Cup (although equally Molik might want to prioritise keeping Stosur fresh for the doubles). Whoever Australia field, Garcia should be able to secure this rubber for France.
Ashleigh Barty/Samantha Stosur (AUS) vs Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA), to follow
Stosur is unbeaten in Fed Cup doubles 8-0, and is a three-time Grand Slam champion in women’s doubles (most recently at the Australian Open last January). Barty is 7-1 in Fed Cup doubles and hasn’t lost a Fed Cup doubles rubber since the first one she played back in 2013; she and Stosur teamed up to win a vital doubles rubber against Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals. Barty is also a Grand Slam women’s doubles champion at the 2018 US Open, and she and Stosur are both possessed of big kick serves, heavy forehands and enviable touch at the net.
Garcia and Mladenovic won the French Open together in 2016 before their partnership broke up, and were the world’s no. 2 doubles team during that season. Garcia has an overall 6-1 record in Fed Cup doubles, and is 4-1 alongside Mladenovic, with the pairing’s only defeat coming at the hands of Barbora Strycova and Karolina Pliskova in the 2016 Fed Cup final. Mladenovic has a 12-2 win-loss record in Fed Cup doubles and has won three women’s doubles Grand Slam titles, most recently the 2019 French Open.
The partnerships are formidable on both sides, but if there is a weak link, it’s probably Stosur whose best days are behind her after health struggles. The question is whether Barty’s current superb form and confidence – and the support of the home crowd – can lift her compatriot and get Australia across the finish line.
Fed Cup final tennis is live from Perth on Sunday from 11am local/3am GMT