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France strike first blow in Fed Cup final

She hit 16 winners to just two, both of which came late in the second set for Tomljanovic, who was only able to hold serve once.

Mladenovic was quick to thank the travelling French fans, who were a contingent of only 100 but sounded like 1000.

Tomljanovic looked nervous from the opening game of the match, where she could barely find a first serve. She saved two break points but couldn’t hold off a third, with France taking the opening game of the final.

Australian Ajla Tomljanovic on debut in Perth.

Australian Ajla Tomljanovic on debut in Perth. Credit:Getty Images

The Australian was on the back foot early, being made to work all across the court that was beginning to bake in the sunshine.

A bit like the weather – that was approaching record levels with a forecast top of 40 – Tomljanovic began to warm into the match in the third game, but her opponent lifted with her. Mladenovic came from 40-15 down to take a 3-0 lead 15 minutes into the opening rubber.

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But after two double faults, including one on the final point, Mladenovic handed Tomljanovic her first game and the home side was on the board at 3-1.

There wasn’t much else to cheer about for the local crowd.

Tomljanovic couldn’t find a way to hold serve and Mladenovic, who was clearly executing her pre-planned strategy, was running her ragged.

Mladenovic’s first vocal outburst of, “Come on!” – in English – felt like a stern message that France was here and weren’t going away quietly as she pumped a forehand down the line.

Kristina Mladenovic celebrates.

Kristina Mladenovic celebrates. Credit:Getty Images

Overpowered and out played, the first set of 6-1 was a clinic and the French fans were only getting louder.

In the opening game of the second set, there was a cheer for a gentleman who moved well to his left to take a catch off the frame of Tomljanovic’s racquet.

If she was playing in last night’s T20 against Pakistan down the road at Optus Stadium, she would’ve been walking off.

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But Mladenovic wasn’t finished with her yet, as she started the second set just how she finished the first – in complete control.

Tomljanovic wasn’t short on effort and she displayed plenty of fighting spirit in a gruelling fourth match of the second set.

But after 12 minutes, Mladenovic squeezed a bit harder and Tomljanovic relented.

Her first winner didn’t come until the sixth game of the second set, which was also her first hold of serve for the match to at least make Mladenovic serve for it at 5-1.

She did and suddenly France had raced to a 1-0 lead and the tie had a new dimension.

Australia will depend heavily on world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who takes to the court against Caroline Garcia, in the second rubber.

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