Mladenovic gives France 1-0 lead in Fed Cup final

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Kristina Mladenovic thrashed Australia’s Fed Cup debutant Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1 6-1 in the opening singles at Perth Arena on Saturday as France took a 1-0 lead in the final. The French number one came out swinging on a scorching hot afternoon and maintained pressure throughout as rookie Tomljanovic capitulated in front of a packed crowd in 71 minutes. Australia will look to their usual Fed Cup saviour Ash Barty to square the ledger when the former world number one meets Caroline Garcia in the second singles match on Saturday. Australia’s team captain Alicia Molik raised eyebrows by throwing Tomljanovic into the cauldron of a Fed Cup final on debut, rather than opting for veteran Sam Stosur for the singles. The gamble backfired spectacularly as Croatia-born Tomljanovic, who only became eligible to represent Australia a month ago, promptly crumbled under pressure. Mladenovic broke her early in a barrage of power hitting and wrapped up the first set in 38 minutes with a fierce forehand return, delighting a rowdy pocket of blue-clad French fans. Tomljanovic’s serve further disintegrated in the second set allowing Mladenovic to roar to a 5-1 lead. The Frenchwoman fended off some belated resistance from the outclassed Australian before sealing the tie with a kick serve that Tomljanovic slapped well beyond the baseline.

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