Australia’s Fed Cup title bid has hit a major hurdle, with Ajla Tomljanovic outclassed by French opponent Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-1 in the opening finals rubber in Perth.
Representing Australia for the first time, Tomljanovic was no match for a red-hot opponent who prevailed on Saturday in one hour and 11 minutes to claim a 1-0 lead for France in the best-of-five format.
World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will look to revive Australia’s hopes when she faces Caroline Garcia in the second singles rubber.
With the temperature climbing to 36C 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 just two winners for the match compared to her opponent’s 16.
Croatian-born Tomjlanovic had declared there would be no secrets between the pair, who rose through the ranks together and were also connected by their fathers having played each other in professional handball.
The Australian also went into Saturday’s clash with a 2-0 career record against world No.40-ranked Mladenovic.
But the pressure of debuting in the cauldron of a Fed Cup final appeared to take its toll, with Tomjlanovic hitting seven double-faults and struggling on her serve throughout.
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 to Barty in Sunday’s reverse singles.
Should the scores be level in the best-of-five format, Barty will partner Samantha Stosur to face Mladenovic and Garcia in a deciding doubles clash.
The post France strike first blow in Fed Cup final against Australia appeared first on The Guardian.