Tennis: France crush Australian dreams to win Fed Cup final

(From left) French tennis players Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, pose for a picture with Australian tennis players Ashleigh Barty and Sam Stosur ahead of their tennis double match on day 2 of the 2019 Fed Cup between Australia and France at
(From left) French tennis players Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, pose for a picture with Australian tennis players Ashleigh Barty and Sam Stosur ahead of their tennis double match on day 2 of the 2019 Fed Cup between Australia and France at Perth Arena.PHOTO: DPA

PERTH (AFP) - A jubilant Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia led France to their first Fed Cup title since 2003 on Sunday (Nov 10), winning a deciding doubles rubber to crush Australian dreams 3-2.

In the last tournament played under the current format, the pair kept their focus at 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 United States 16 years ago, piling more misery on seven-time champions Australia who have now lost all nine of the last Fed Cup finals they have appeared in.

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.

An ecstatic France captain Julien Benneteau said courtside: "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.

"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.

But captain Alica Molik kept faith with her and she bounced back to beat Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.