Australia's Ashleigh Barty serves France's Caroline Garcia dreaded double-bagel to level Fed Cup final
World No 1 Barty levels tie in Perth after France's Kristina Mladenovic had earlier beaten her teammate Ajla Tomljanovic
World No 1 Ashleigh Barty hauled Australia level in their Fed Cup final with France, doling out the dreaded double-bagel to Caroline Garcia after France's Kristina Mladenovic whipped her teammate Ajla Tomljanovic.
Barty, fresh from winning the WTA Finals in China, came on court in Perth under pressure after the nervous Tomljanovic was thrashed 6-1, 6-1 in her tournament debut.
With temperatures soaring to 38° Celsius, Barty kept her cool to dish out a 6-0, 6-0 hurting on Garcia in under an hour in front of 13,000 fans.
It left the Fed Cup World Group tie evenly poised at 1-1 ahead of Sunday's reverse singles and a doubles clash if needed, with Australia targeting an eighth title and first in 45 years, while France are seeking a third, their first since 2003.
"This is remarkable, I couldn't have asked for a better match," Barty said in her courtside interview.
"I'm so happy to be back here in Perth. I started my year off here and it's a hell of a way to finish it off."
Barty is wrapping up a breathrough season that saw her win her first Grand Slam at this summer's French Open as well as clinch the season-ending WTA Finals in China with a 6-4, 6-3 win over defending champion Elina Svitolina and with it a winner's cheque of $4.42 million (Dh24m).
The Queensland native was imperious against Garcia, firing down pinpoint first serves and effortlessly pushing the Frenchwoman around the court, forcing errors.
She set the tone by breaking Garcia's first service game and there was no way back for a player who was once ranked four in the world but has slipped to 45.
Barty wrapped up the first set in 29 minutes and there was no let up as she sent down 11 forehand and four backhand winners.
The ease of her win was a huge relief for Australian captain Alicia Molik, whose gamble to play Tomljanovic in singles ahead of veteran Samantha Stosur backfired spectacularly.
Tomljanovic is scheduled to play again on Sunday, but given her performance Molik may revert to Stosur - Australia's most successful ever singles player.
France captain Julien Benneteau faces a similar dilemma with Garcia. His other options are Alize Cornet, Fiona Ferro or Pauline Parmentier.
Currently Barty and Stosur are slated to play Mladenovic and Garcia in what could be a doubles decider.
World No 40 Mladenovic gave her country a 1-0 lead by destroying Tomljanovic in 71 minutes.
"I think she played good but I just came out there and basically wanted to win," said Mladenovic after clinching her 22nd Fed Cup win.
"I really did almost the perfect match, I was really in the zone. I love these sort of matches, the bigger the pressure, the more special the event."
Tomljanovic failed to hit a single winner in the opening set. She was broken in the first game and Mladenovic quickly turned the screws, racing to a 3-0 lead before a double-fault on break-point in game four allowed Tomljanovic a rare glimmer of hope.
But it didn't last long with Mladenovic's powerful forehand proving too hot to handle.
She kept the momentum going in the second set as Tomljanovic wilted under the pressure, galloping to a 5-0 lead before the Australian finally won a game only for Mladenovic to comfortably serve out the match.
Updated: November 9, 2019 01:07 PM