Bidding To Extend Fed Cup Winning Streak, Barty Opens Against Garcia

PERTH, November 8, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

The official draw for the 2019 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final between host Australia and France took place in a festive atmosphere at the Heath Ledger Theatre in Perth, Western Australia on Friday morning.

Perth has hosted four Fed Cup ties over the history of the competition – most recently in 2009 – and the RAC Arena has been the longtime venue for the Hopman Cup, too. So, the city knows a thing or two about hospitality and hosting big tennis competitions. On hand, dancers from the Western Australian Ballet performed the “Peasant Pas de Deux” from the iconic ballet Giselle to get everyone in the right frame of mind for the largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, which begins Saturday. When each team’s nominations were revealed, there were few if any surprises as both Australia and France will play to its strengths.

Australia and France have faced each other six times in Fed Cup history, so there’s some shared past between this year’s finalists. However, the last time the two nations faced each other, in 2000 won by France 2-1, Australia’s team captain Alicia Molik and coach Nicole Pratt were on the the team. The Aussies lead the head-to-head series 5-1.

It its first Fed Cup final since 1993, the Australians will be anchored by World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who will play France’s No. 2 Caroline Garcia, ranked 45th, in the second rubber Saturday. Filling out the lineups, Molik chose 51st-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic at No. 2 singles and Barty and Samantha Stosur will play doubles. Molik’s counterpart, French team captain Julien Benneteau, selected 40th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic at No. 1 singles and Mladenovic and Garcia will team in doubles. Tomljanovic and Mladenovic will play the first rubber on Saturday.

Molik chose Tomljanovic over Stosur, whose 29-20 win-loss record makes her Australia’s most successful Fed Cup singles player of all time. “It’s exceptionally tough to decide your two singles players to go out on the first day,” she said during a Friday press conference. “For us, it was a matter of match-ups with our opposition, Mladenovic and Garcia, and we’re going in with our strongest two players. Of course, things can change for both teams on Sunday.”

Barty for one is all in for the Green and Gold of Australia. There’s no place she would rather be than in Perth this weekend.

“It is an amazing achievement to be involved in a Fed Cup Final, but we don’t just want to make the final,” Barty told the Fed Cup website earlier this week. “For all of us to be able to say that we are Fed Cup champions would be special.

“One of the best things about our team now is there is so much love and compassion. The way that Mol (team captain Alicia Molik) has been able to bring us together and create this real want and desire to play for Australia has been crucial.”

Meanwhile, France will be at full strength and Benneteau has No. 60 Alize Cornet in reserve. Although, for now, he’s relying on a two-woman team of Mladenovic and Garcia to carry the entire load in both singles and doubles.

“During the first two rounds we proved that we have won the ties with two, three different players who played in singles, and for us it’s an advantage because you never know what can happen on Saturday in the first two singles,” Benneteau said Wednesday. “It can be very hard physically and mentally, and then the Sunday it’s a huge day with two singles and one doubles, so a lot of options for sure.”

Saturday’s schedule features two singles rubbers beginning at 11 a.m. in Perth (3 a.m. GMT). On Sunday, the first rubber features each team’s No. 1 singles players followed by the second rubber contested by the No. 2 singles players, and, finally, the doubles rubber.

Fed Cup notes

• Seven-time champion Australia and two-time winner France have competed in every Fed Cup since its inceptions in 1963. But, both are longing to add another Fed Cup to its national trophy case and each has waited a long time. Australia’s last Fed Cup title came in 1974 and France last won it in 2003 but was a finalist in 2016.

• Ashleigh Barty of Australia will attempt to extend a 14-match Fed Cup winning streak, having not lost a match in the competition since 2017. Should she win three matches this weekend – as she did in both the World Group first round and semifinals this year – she will become the first player to win the maximum possible number of Fed Cup matches in a year (nine) since the current format was adopted in 1995. Should she win two singles matches, she will become the 10th player to complete a perfect year in Fed Cup singles since 1995.

Fed Cup schedule

Day 1 / Saturday from 11 a.m. (3 a.m. GMT) – R1: Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Kristina Mladenovic. R2: Ashleigh Barty vs. Caroline Garcia.

Day 2 / Sunday from 11 a.m. (3 a.m. GMT) – R3: Ashleigh Barty vs. Kristina Mladenovic. R4: Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Caroline Garcia. R5: Ashleigh Barty-Samantha Stosur vs. Caroline Garcia-Kristina Mladenovic.