France and Australia are tied at one match a piece after Kristina Mladenovic and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty recorded lopsided victories on the opening day of the best-of-five Fed Cup final.
Mladenovic took the court first at RAC Arena in this west-coast city and silenced the home crowd with a dominating 6-1, 6-1 win over Croatian-born Ajla Tomljanovic late on Saturday, reports Efe news.
The 40th-ranked Frenchwoman raced out to a 3-0 lead thanks to her aggressive baseline game and timely net approaches, although a double fault on break point in the fourth game allowed her Australian opponent to get on the scoreboard.
Mladenovic, however, kept the pressure on Tomljanovic's service games and earned her third break of the match when the Australian sent a forehand long to fall behind 4-1.
A big key to the Frenchwoman's dominance was her strong return of serve, which she leveraged to take advantage of her opponent's weak serving and clinch the fourth set with yet another service break.
Early in the second set, Mladenovic struck a forehand return of serve winner to secure a fifth straight break and take a commanding 6-1, 2-0 lead. She then broke serve yet again two games later to grab a 4-0 advantage.
Although Tomljanovic held serve for the only time in the match to make the score 5-1, Mladenovic finished off the victory one game later when the Australian sent a backhand return over the baseline.
In the second match of the day, Barty knew she needed to respond and did so emphatically with a shocking 6-0, 6-0 rout of former top-five player Caroline Garcia.
Known for her complete game and variety of shot, Barty can at times donate too many points with unforced errors, but she was particularly stingy in that phase of the game on Saturday.
The 45th-ranked Garcia struggled to find ways to win points and was forced to take risks by coming forward, allowing Barty to showcase her underrated athleticism, defensive skills and counter-punching.
She took a 4-0 lead in the first set when she struck a forehand passing shot on the baseline on break point.
Barty's always-reliable service game also was ultra-sharp on Saturday, with the Australian striking one of her eight aces to clinch a 5-0 advantage.
One game later, Barty won a back-and-forth game and went to multiple deuces before wrapping up the opening set with a backhand-slice, passing-shot winner.
The match continued to be one-way traffic in the second set, with Garcia either being punished for moving forward or watching winners bounce past her if she opted to merely keep the ball in the court.
Finally, at the 56-minute mark, the contest mercifully ended when the Frenchwoman dumped a forehand in the net.