World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty hopes to wrap up a dream season in front of her home crowd this weekend, as she leads Australia against France in the Fed Cup final at the RAC Arena in Perth.
Barty began 2019 playing Hopman Cup on these very same courts and was ranked No. 15 at the time. Since then, she’s captured her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, risen to No. 1 in the world rankings, and less than a week ago, claimed season-ending glory by winning the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
“It was the perfect way to start my 2019 season, so to come here and end it, it feels like I’ve come full circle. To end the season here playing for your country feels special too,” Barty told FedCup.com.
“This is a week I circled at the beginning of the year, one we wanted to try to get to as a team and as a nation. It’s so exciting to be able to finish the year playing for your country—it’s pretty special, and without a doubt something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. We’re only a few days away.”
Caroline Garcia and Ashleigh Barty pose with figurines of themselves at the official Fed Cup dinner. (Getty Images)
After a long campaign, one might assume Barty is running on fumes right now, but she says she's feeling upbeat.
“I’m good, all good. There’s certainly no issues. I’m as fresh as I can expect to be after the last week of the season, but definitely no issues,” the 23-year-old said. “Midway through the year I wanted to make sure that I was fit and healthy and doing everything possible to be right for this weekend.”
Barty will be the first reigning No. 1 to play in the Fed Cup final since 1998, when then-No. 1 Martina Hingis and the Swiss team finished runners-up to Spain.
Rounding out the Australian team will be Ajla Tomljanovic, Sam Stosur, Astra Sharma and Priscilla Hon. At No. 51, Tomljanovic is currently the No. 2-ranked Australian, but Stosur—who’s currently No. 96—is a former No. 4, as well as a former No. 1 in doubles. She’s also a Fed Cup veteran.
“I’ve played Fed Cup for, I think, 16 years now, and loved every time I’ve been out there to represent my country,” Stosur said. “I’ll certainly be putting my hand up, and if Alicia [Molik] wants me to play, that’ll be something really special. If not, I’ll be on the sidelines cheering Ajla or whoever gets picked.”
Mladenovic could be particularly dangerous: not only is she a former No. 1 in doubles and fresh off winning the doubles title at the WTA Finals alongside Hungary’s Timea Babos, but she beat Barty the only time they played this year in Rome, just a few weeks before Barty won Roland Garros.
Both Mladenovic and Cornet have won Hopman Cup titles at the RAC Arena, as well.
France is looking for its first title since 2003, while Australia is seeking to end a 45-year drought. (Getty Images)
“The first time I stepped on the court yesterday I had such great memories,” Mladenovic said. “I want to thank the Australian team for hosting the Fed Cup final in a place like this. It’s an advantage when you know the court and it’s where you’ve won in the past. You feel like you can repeat the story.”
“I can’t wait for the stadium to be packed, as it used to be in Hopman Cup,” Cornet commented. “I’ve heard that it’s going to be packed for this weekend, so the atmosphere is going to be amazing.”
Australia has won Fed Cup seven times, but not in 45 years. All seven of their titles came between 1964 and 1974. The French are two-time champions in 1997 and 2003.