Ashleigh Barty and Kristina Mladenovic came out firing on Day 1 of the Fed Cup final on Saturday, recording impressive straight-sets wins to leave Australia and France tied at 1-1 heading into Day 2.
Mladenovic scored the first point of the tie, outslugging Ajla Tomljanovic in 72 minutes, 6-1, 6-1.
After Mladenovic jumped out to a 3-0, double-break lead, Tomljanovic looked like she might claw her way back into the match, getting one of the breaks back to close the gap to 3-1. But Mladenovic quickly captured the momentum again, reeling off the next eight games to build a 6-1, 5-0 lead. Tomljanovic held to get on the board in the second set but Mladenovic swiftly served it out in the next game.
The two big-hitters finished the match with almost the same number of unforced errors - Mladenovic 17, Tomljanovic 18 - but the Frenchwoman hit eight times as many winners as the Australian, 16 to 2.
As if Mladenovic’s performance weren’t dominant enough, Barty was even more devastating in her match, crushing Caroline Garcia in just 56 minutes in the second singles rubber, 6-0, 6-0.
Barty was in total control from start to finish, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in just 15 minutes and finishing the match with more than twice as many points as Garcia, 55 to 26. She ended the match with 15 winners to nine unforced errors, while the Frenchwoman had three winners to 16 unforced errors.
It was the No. 1-ranked Australian’s first career double bagel in tour-level competition - it also extended her Fed Cup winning streak to 15 rubbers in a row, including both singles and doubles.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match. I think that’s probably the most perfect tennis match I’ve played in my life,” Barty said. “And what a place to do it. This is incredible. I’m so happy to be back here in Perth. I started my year here in Hopman Cup and it’s a hell of a way to finish it off, too.”
The reverse singles rubbers will take place Sunday, pitting Barty against Mladenovic and Tomljanovic against Garcia, with an absolute blockbuster of a deciding doubles rubber set if need be - Barty and Sam Stosur against Garcia and Mladenovic, all four of whom are Grand Slam doubles champions.
Barty is 1-1 head-to-head against Mladenovic, though the Frenchwoman won their only 2019 meeting in the third round of Rome, 6-2, 6-3. The Australian won Roland Garros just a few weeks later.
“Today was a statement match for her - Kristina was in control,” Barty said. “That’s the challenge for me tomorrow, to try and come out and take her out of her comfort zone. I’m looking forward to the challenge tomorrow. I can’t wait to play her here and hopefully we can come away with the goods.”
Australia is trying to win its eighth Fed Cup title, the first seven coming in 1964, 1965, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973 and 1974, while France is trying to win its third Fed Cup, having won it in 1997 and 2003.