The 2019 Fed Cup final went down to the wire in front of a packed crowd at the RAC Arena in Perth, and in the end it was France that came and conquered, with Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic beating Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur in the deciding doubles rubber to clinch the title.
The tie had been level at 1-1 after Saturday’s first two singles rubbers, with Mladenovic beating Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 6-1, and Barty double bageling Garcia, 6-0, 6-0. And the two teams split the reverse singles rubbers on Sunday, with Mladenovic rallying from a first set blowout to outdo Barty, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), and Tomljanovic keeping the home team alive with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Pauline Parmentier.
It’s France’s third Fed Cup title—their first two came in 1997 and 2003. (Getty Images)
The stage was set for a blockbuster final act, with four of the best doubles players in women’s tennis on the court—they had all won Grand Slam doubles titles before and they were all current or former Top 5 players on the doubles rankings. Two of them, Mladenovic and Stosur, were former No. 1s.
But Garcia and Mladenovic had won a Grand Slam doubles title together before, at Roland Garros in 2016, and after falling behind 2-0 in the first set they found their championship-winning form again, reeling off nine of the next 11 games to go up 6-4, 3-0, and eventually serving it out, 6-4, 6-3.
“It’s been a long journey. It’s been a dream of a kid,” Mladenovic told FedCup.com. “I gave so much personally for this achievement in my career, something I wanted—you know, it was on the bucket list. And to be in Australia, facing such a strong team with the World No. 1, and to have this thriller of a match with her, 7-6 in the third, I can’t believe it. I still don’t really realize what’s just happened.
“To lift that trophy, it’s an unforgettable moment.”
“I’ve won so many decisive doubles rubbers with Kristina in our Fed Cup career, and it was such an amazing experience once again,” Garcia said. “I think we learned from our experience in the past—we were ready for everything and wanted to play our best tennis, and that’s what we did, I think.”
Mladenovic’s 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) win over Barty on Sunday might have been a pivotal moment in the tie.
It was her second career win over a reigning No. 1—she beat Naomi Osaka in Dubai. (Getty Images)
Barty, riding a 15-match winning streak in Fed Cup play that included both singles and doubles, was five points from making it 16 in a row–she led 6-2, 4-3 with a break point to go up 6-2, 5-3.
But Mladenovic never gave in, fighting off that break point and winning six of the next seven games to take the second set and build a 3-1 lead in the third. The two would end up in a third set tie-break, where the Frenchwoman caught fire one more time, winning six points in a row from 1-all to close it out, sealing the monumental victory with a huge forehand that Barty couldn’t get back in the court.
The Frenchwoman thanked the crowd in her on-court interview after the two-hour, 32-minute stunner.
“Thank you for your unconditional support today,” she said, fighting back tears. “There were some incredible emotions in this match and it was thanks to you that I was able to make it through.”