‘Scintillating’ Barty stuns record crowd
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.
Earlier on Saturday, Fed Cup debutant Ajla Tomljanovic was outclassed by France's Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 6-1 in the opening singles rubber. Australia's hopes of winning the Fed Cup for the first time in 45 years will rest largely on Barty's shoulders after she had embarrassed former world No.4 Garcia.
French Open champion Barty has been unbeaten in five singles matches and two doubles rubbers in this year's tournament.
Gosh is it satisfying to watch Ashleigh Barty at the peak of her powers to finish this season.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 9, 2019
"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."
Barty's 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, and it remains to be seen whether team captain Alicia Molik will opt to substitute Tomljanovic for the vastly experienced Stosur in the singles.
Representing Australia for the first time, Tomljanovic was overcome by nerves and was no match for a red-hot Mladenovic.
With the temperature climbing to 36 degrees before midday and a near-capacity crowd at RAC Arena rallying behind her, the conditions were in world No.51 Tomljanovic's favour.
But it counted for little in a match where the Australian held serve just once - in the second last game - and managed only two winners for the match compared to her opponent's 16.
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.
The Frenchwoman sounded an ominous warning in a match where she wielded her lethal forehand to devastating effect.
"I really (played) almost a perfect match. I was really in the zone," she 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.
It's not to be for Ajla on her debut, a stunning performance from Kiki Mladenovic gives France the early lead.— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) November 9, 2019
Mladenovic 6-1 6-1 Tomljanovic
🇫🇷 France 1-0 Australia 🇦🇺#FedCupFinal @Channel9 pic.twitter.com/RKerKogMPC
Kristina Mladenovic defeated Ajla Tomljanovic: 6-1 6-1
Ash Barty defeated Caroline Garcia: 6-0 6-0
Ash Barty vs Kristina Mladenovic
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Caroline Garcia
Ash Barty/Sam Stosur vs Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic
- with AAP