Australia falls short in Fed Cup after two Barty upsets_1


Australia's bid to win the Fed Cup for the first time in 45 years has ended in heartbreak with France prevailing in the doubles decider to claim a 3-2 victory in Perth.

French duo Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic were too good for world No.1 Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur, cruising to a 6-4 6-3 victory on Sunday to secure the nation's third Fed Cup crown and first since 2003.

Mladenovic earlier stunned Barty 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-1) in an epic two-and-a-half hour singles battle at RAC Arena to put France ahead in the best-of-five rubbers final.

Ajla Tomljanovic had earlier overcome her nightmare debut to defeat Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-5.

French hopes of claiming the Fed Cup title soared after Kristina Mladenovic broke Australian hearts with a stunning 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-1) win over world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in Perth.

Barty's 15-match Fed Cup winning streak came crashing to a halt as Mladenovic mounted a lion-hearted comeback to prevail in two hours and 31 minutes, putting France up 2-1 in the best-of-five rubbers final.

The loss meant Tomljanovic had to defeat Pauline Parmentier in Sunday's second reverse singles match to force the doubles decider.

France opted to bring in world No.122 Parmentier as a substitute for Caroline Garcia, who Barty thrashed 6-0 6-0 in Saturday's singles rubber.

Mladenovic was struggling for words and in tears after claiming the biggest victory of her career.

"It's tough to speak," the Frenchwoman said.

We kept on fighting every single point. That's the way I love to play my tennis … I just kept believing."

Barty had gone into Sunday's match at RAC Arena as the hot favourite after her annihilation of Garcia the previous day.

But world No.40 Mladenovic again proved too good, storming back from being a set down to consolidate her defeat of Barty on clay in Rome six months ago.

In a match full of momentum swings, Barty rode a wave of support from the near-capacity crowd to go up 6-5 in the third set.

But the equally determined Mladenovic served to love and didn't blink during a ruthless tiebreaker.

Barty will be left to lament an uncharacteristically wayward performance in which she made 47 unforced errors.

The French Open champion came out firing with back-to-back aces to take the first game, then broke Mladenovic's serve before taking the first set in 33 minutes.

But the French No.1, who thrashed Tomljanovic 6-1 6-1 on Saturday, forced her way back into the contest and consolidated in an epic 66-minute deciding set.

More to come

-AAP