Australia rallies to level Fed Cup final at 2-2
PERTH, Australia (AP) — The Fed Cup final between Australia and France is going to a doubles decider after Ajla Tomljanovic beat Pauline Parmentier in the second reverse singles to level the tie at 2-2.
World No. 51 Tomljanovic impressively rebounded from a dispiriting performance in her Australian Fed Cup debut on Saturday against Kristina Mladenovic to record a 6-4, 7-5 victory in one hour and 33 minutes at Perth Arena.
Tomljanovic's maiden victory in the competition kept Australia's hopes of its first Fed Cup triumph in 45 years alive, after Mladenovic had earlier upset World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in a three-set thriller to move France into a 2-1 lead.
"I'm really glad I got a second chance and that I got a win," Tomljanovic said.
France captain Julien Benneteau chose veteran Parmentier over former world No.4 Caroline Garcia, who failed to win a game against Barty, to try and clinch the tie for the visitors.
The decision initially appeared a good one as Tomljanovic was put under early pressure by Parmentier but eventually held her serve after saving two break points.
The Australian struggled to consistently land her first serve but world No.122 Parmentier could not make her pay and it was an increasingly confident Tomljanovic who grabbed the decisive break in the 10th game to take the first set.
Tomljanovic appeared headed for victory when she broke in the sixth game of the second set but was unable to consolidate.
The 26-year-old held her nerve and gained the decisive break in the 12th game to ensure Australia's bid to end a 45-year drought remained alive.
Earlier Sunday, Mladenovic stunned Barty with a nerve-wrenching 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1) victory to move the visitors to the brink of its first Fed Cup win since 2003.
World No.40 Mladenovic started slowly before taking advantage of an error-strewn Barty, whose 15-match Fed Cup winning streak was ended in a see-sawing match lasting two hours and 31 minutes.
Mladenovic failed to close out the match on serve in the 10th game of the deciding set before dominating world No.1 Barty in the tiebreak to produce arguably the best victory of her career.
"It's absolutely epic. This one is special because it's playing in the final for the country in front of an amazing, packed crowd," said an emotional Mladenovic after the match.
Barty started where she left off against Garcia on Saturday, firing back-to-back aces to take the first game then broke Mladenovic's serve on her way to claiming the first set in 33 minutes.
But the French No.1 fought her way back into the contest and took advantage of a series of unforced errors by Barty to force a deciding set.
"She was the aggressor, took a few more chances and got the reward out there," Barty said.
The deciding doubles will pit Barty and Samantha Stosur against Mladenovic and Garcia, who combined to win the French Open in 2016.
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