For the first time since 2003, France won the Fed Cup title after a thrilling 3-2 triumph over Australia ion Perth, in what should be the last "regular" edition of this competition. Kristina Mladenovic emerged to be a hero of the weekend for the guest squad, securing all three victories and earning the MVP award following two singles triumphs and the deciding doubles win with Caroline Garcia that led France towards the trophy for the first time in 16 years.
With 24 Fed Cup wins since making a debut in 2012, Mladenovic is the fifth-best player of the French team behind Nathalie Tauziat, Amelie Mauresmo, Francoise Durr and Gail Benedetti, hoping to pass them all in the years to come and earn more trophies for her country.
In the first rubber of the final tie, Kristina toppled a debutant for the Australian team Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-1 in 72 minutes to put her country in front. 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 could notice that after facing only one break chance 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 her range 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 cementing the break following a forehand error from Tomljanovic a few minutes later.
The Aussie wasted numerous game points at 0-3 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. In the third rubber, Kristina had the opportunity to fight against world no.
1 Ashleigh Barty in what was a pivotal rubber, scoring a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 triumph in two hours and 32 minutes to provide another lead for France. Back in May, Mladenovic toppled Barty in straight sets on clay in Rome and managed to repeat the same kind of vibe in front of the Australian fans in the RAC Arena in Perth, earning her 11th Fed Cup singles win from 19 encounters and moving her country closer to the first Fed Cup crown since 2003.
Kristina claimed five points more than Ashleigh, losing serve four times and delivering three breaks from 13 opportunities in important moments to overcome a slow start and cross the finish line first. Barty was unable to produce the same level she brought against Garcia, spraying too many unforced errors and losing ground when it mattered the most to suffer the first loss in the competition since 2017.
Things looked perfect for the Aussie in the opener, serving well and earning an early break with a volley winner in game two. A volley mistake cost Mladenovic the set when she suffered the second break in game eight, sending the opponent in front and having to work much harder in the rest of the encounter if she wanted to emerge at the top.
They stayed neck and neck in the first eight games of the second set before Ashleigh landed a forehand long to give serve away, spraying another error from that wing in game ten and allowing Mladenovic to grab the set 6-4 and stay in contention.
Pumped and motivated, Kristina secured another break in the third game of the decider when Barty placed a slice wide, with the Aussie breaking back at 2-3 thanks to a backhand mistake from the French player to extend the drama.
Determined to fight until the last point, Mladenovic broke at love in the ninth game but couldn't serve out for the win after a break at love in game ten that kept Barty in the chase. The Aussie fended off three break chances in the 11th game to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, reaching a tie break where it was all about Mladenovic who claimed it 7-1 following a forehand error from Ashleigh to deliver a massive victory and put France 2-1 up.
In the deciding doubles rubber, Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur took upon Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia who didn't have to play that fourth singles rubber, gathering all the energy for the most important match of this year's Fed Cup.
The French girls had some ups and downs recently but they revived their old magic again, scoring a 6-4, 6-3 triumph in 76 minutes to celebrate the first Fed Cup crown in 16 years! Mladenovic and Garcia got broken only once, outplaying the opponents and clinching three breaks that carried them home safely.
Barty and Stosur made a convincing start, breaking Garcia at 15 in the first game before Kristina and Caroline responded with a break at love in game four to level the score at 2-2. The French squad settled into an excellent rhythm and broke Barty at 15 in game ten to grab the opener 6-4, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.
Mladenovic landed a backhand winner to steal Barty's serve at 15 in the second game of the second set, with Garcia fending off three break chances on her serve in the next game to push France 3-0 in front. Serving at 2-5, Barty and Stosur saved two match points to prolong the clash before Mladenovic and Garcia brought the victory home in game nine for a well-deserved title celebration.