Barty strikes back in France Fed Cup final

Ashleigh Barty has needed less than an hour to defeat Caroline Garcia and even the ledger between Australia and France at 1-1 in the Fed Cup final in Perth.

ASHLEIGH BARTY of Australia plays at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, England.
ASHLEIGH BARTY of Australia plays  at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, England. Picture: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Consistently elevating her game under pressure, world No.1 Ashleigh Barty has obliterated Caroline Garcia 6-0 6-0 to even the ledger between Australia and France in the Fed Cup final in Perth.

Barty's clinical victory in just 56 minutes made it 1-1 in the best-of-five format, ahead of Sunday's reverse singles and potentially a doubles decider at RAC Arena.

Matched up against an opponent who was ranked No.4 in the world last October, Barty delivered a complete performance.

"I think that's probably the best tennis match I've ever played in my life," an elated Barty said.

"I'm so happy to be back here in Perth. I started my year here so it's a hell of a way to finish it off, too."

Earlier on Saturday, a nerve-rattled Ajla Tomljanovic was outclassed by French No.1 Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 6-1 on her Fed Cup debut.

But if that result left Barty feeling the heat, it didn't show.

The French Open champion delivered an awe-inspiring performance to snatch back the momentum for an Australian team chasing the nation's first Fed Cup title in 45 years.

"For me, it doesn't really change," Barty said.

"Whether we're 1-0 up or 1-0 down, it's still about me doing what I need to do to prepare in a way that gives myself the best chance of winning which, in turn, helps the team."

Barty's Fed Cup winning streak extends to 15 matches, and her mouth-watering clash with Mladenovic on Sunday will go a long way towards determining which nation claims the trophy.

Should the scores be level after the reverse singles, Barty will partner Samantha Stosur to face Mladenovic and Garcia in a deciding doubles rubber.

Both teams have the option of changing their nominated players for Sunday's rubbers.

Team captain Alicia Molik will weigh up whether to substitute Tomljanovic from the singles - most likely for the vastly experienced Stosur - after she had been overcome by nerves while representing Australia for the first time against a red-hot Mladenovic.

"There's not many tournaments throughout the year where you get a second bite of the cherry the day after - what a brilliant situation to be in," Molik said.

"I know she was nervous. That's normal for your first match. And I know she's excited about tomorrow if she gets the nod.

"That's probably something we have to discuss as a team as well."

With the temperature climbing to 36 degrees before midday, Mladenovic showed no discomfort in a match in which she wielded her lethal forehand to devastating effect.

Fresh from partnering Hungary's Timea Babos to take out the doubles title at last week's season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China, Mladenovic is set to pose a stern test for Barty.

"I really (played) almost a perfect match. I was really in the zone," Mladenovic said.

"I love this kind of event. The more pressure it is, the more special is the event. I love fighting and I'm so proud to give this first point to my team, to my country."


AAP