The last edition of a "regular" Fed Cup has kicked off in Perth, with Australia and France fighting for the prestigious title at RAC Arena. Saturday's action failed to bring drama and excitement, with two matches wrapped up in under two hours combined, offering one-sided scoreboards and one victory for both squads.
In the first clash of the day, Kristina Mladenovic toppled a debutant Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 12 minutes to move France 1-0 up, earning her tenth singles Fed Cup triumph in 18 encounters. Alicia Molik went with Tomljanovic who couldn't endure the pressure, serving at 42% and barely hitting any winner alongside more than 30 errors!
Mladenovic also struggled to find the first serve but no one noticed that after facing only one break point and delivering six successful return games to control the scoreboard all the time. Tomljanovic lost serve in the very first game after netting a backhand, falling 3-0 behind after a forehand winner from Mladenovic who hit a double fault in the fourth game to keep Ajla in the set.
Nonetheless, she found deep returns again in the next game, scoring another break for a 4-1 lead and closing the opener with the fourth straight break after another thrilling return in game seven. Carried by this momentum, Kristina claimed 13 of the first 14 points in set number two, breaking at love in game two with a forehand return winner and securing the break following a forehand error from Tomljanovic a few minutes later.
The Aussie wasted numerous game points in game four to suffer another break, allowing Kristina to seal the deal with a service winner at 5-1 for one of her best victories of the season. With no room for errors, world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty stepped on the court against Caroline Garcia and toppled the French girl 6-0, 6-0 in 56 minutes!
They had some tight battles in the past but it was all about the home favorite Barty in Perth, dropping only eight points on serve and fending off both break chances to mount the pressure on her opponent who was miles from those numbers, unable to do anything on both the first and second serve and hitting three winners alongside more than 30 errors!
Ashleigh tamed her shots nicely, delivering six breaks from 14 opportunities to seal the deal in no time at all and level the overall score at 1-1. Barty held with an ace in the first game and broke Caroline with a smash winner in game two for an instant lead, holding at love in game three to extend the advantage.
A forehand down the line winner secured another break for Roland Garros champion in game four, making another quick hold with an ace and converting the fifth set point at 5-0 with a backhand slice winner to deliver a bagel.
Ashleigh grabbed the first game of the second set with another ace, breaking in game two with a forehand winner and racing into a 3-0 lead after a service winner. With no rhythm, Garcia sprayed a forehand mistake in the fourth game to give serve away, wasting those two break chances in game five and netting a forehand in the next game to suffer a terrible loss that should provide a massive boost to Barty ahead of deciding Sunday's rubbers.