Australia vs France: Barty to face Garcia in Fed Cup final

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              Ashleigh Barty of Australia holds her winning trophy on stage after defeating Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the WTA Finals Tennis Tournament at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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PERTH, Australia (AP) — World No. 1 Ash Barty will attempt to cap an extraordinarily successful season by leading Australia to its first Fed Cup victory in 45 years.

Barty, who won the French Open for her first major, and last week’s WTA Finals in China, will play Caroline Garcia of France. Ajla Tomljanovic will make her debut for Australia playing the opening singles match Saturday against Kristina Mladenovic.

“Caro’s a great friend of mine and I know that we both play our best tennis during Fed Cup week, so I think tomorrow’s match is going to be of a really high quality,” Barty said Friday.

The 26-year-old, Croatian-born Tomljanovic only received clearance from the International Tennis Federation to represent her adopted country last month.

Tomljanovic and Mladenovic know each other well — the pair rose through the junior ranks in Europe together and their fathers played each other in professional handball.

“We’re the same age and we grew up together playing the same tournaments, so I think there will be no secrets tomorrow,” the 26-year-old Tomljanovic said.

The Australian has a 2-0 career record against her higher-ranked opponent.

“We practice often together and we know each other really well,” Mladenovic said. “She’s a great player. It’s going to be a tough and exciting match.”

It will be Australia’s first Fed Cup final since 1993. Australia last won the event, previously known as the Federation Cup, in Italy in 1974, with Evonne Goolagong, Dianne Fromholtz and Janet Young defeating the United States 2-1.

Barty will play Mladenovic in the first reverse singles on Sunday, followed by Tomljanovic taking on Garcia, although late changes can be made by the team captains.

The final is being played on hard outdoor courts at Perth Arena.

The reverse singles will be followed by a potential deciding doubles match. Barty and Samantha Stosur will play doubles for Australia against Mladenovic and Garcia.

Barty is aiming to extend her Fed Cup winning streak to 15 matches, a run that began in February 2017. This year she is 6-0, winning all her singles matches.

Both Barty and Stosur and Mladenovic/Garcia won three-set live fifth doubles matches in April’s semifinals to send their countries to the final. Australia beat Belarus in the semifinals and France defeated Romania.

Just before Friday’s draw, Australia team captain Alicia Molik chose No. 51-ranked Tomljanovic over Stosur as Australia’s second singles player behind Barty. Stosur won the 2011 U.S. Open and was once ranked No. 4 in singles, but has fallen to No. 96 and often doesn’t play well before home crowds.

Australia has played France six times in Fed Cup history and has a 5-1 edge, but lost when the teams last played in France in 2000.