WTA Tour

France edge Romania to set up Fed Cup final against Australia

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Kristina Mladenovic (AP)
Kristina Mladenovic (AP)

Rouen - France set up a Fed Cup final against Australia on Sunday when Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, who once were barely on speaking terms, teamed-up to crown a 3-2 victory over Romania.

Former Roland Garros doubles champions Garcia and Mladenovic beat Simona Halep and Monica Niculescu 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to secure the winning point and a final date against Australia in November.

Victory was a diplomatic coup for France coach Julien Benneteau who teamed up Garcia and Mladenovic for the first time in Fed Cup since 2016 after which the pair had a bitter falling out which led to a self-imposed Fed Cup exile for Garcia, her country's top player.

"Every match was incredible," said Benneteau.

"I am so proud of them. It was always my intention to put them together - and it was not hard to do."

Earlier on Sunday, French Open champion Halep won her second singles of the weekend, seeing off Garcia 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-4 for a 2-1 lead in the semi-final.

Veteran Pauline Parmentier then beat a hobbling Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to pull France level.

In a tense deciding rubber, Halep, whose doubles ranking is in the 400s, committed a double fault to concede the break in the ninth game of the final set before Garcia held her nerve to serve out the victory.

"We prepared ourselves as best as we could, we had a good training session at the beginning of the week, and we were ready, maybe at the beginning we made some mistakes," said Garcia.

"We really made the effort from start to finish together, it was intense on the court from the first point of the weekend to the last. But it was a great weekend and we can really be proud."

France, who won the last of their two titles in 2003, will travel to Australia for the final.

Six-time champions Australia, whose most recent title was in 1974, reached a first final in 26 years by seeing off Belarus 3-2 in Brisbane in a tie also settled by a three-set deciding doubles rubber.

Australia made the championship match when Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur battled past Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

The tie was sent into the crucial doubles match after two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka crushed Stosur 6-1, 6-1 in the reverse singles, after Barty swept past Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2.

"I could not have picked two more perfect athletes to compete. Ash and Sam are superstars," said captain Alicia Molik who will look to inspire a first title since 1974 for Australia in the final. 

Barty called making the final "unbelievable" while Stosur said it was "super exciting".

"We knew it was going to be a tough one and we just so happy with how we played," added Stosur.

"All the girls have worked so hard throughout the year and we really stick together."

Results from the Fed Cup semi-finals on Sunday:

Australia 3 Belarus 2

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-2, 6-2

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 6-1, 6-1

Ashleigh Barty/Samantha Stosur (AUS) bt Victoria Azarenka/Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 7-5, 3-6, 6-2

Played on Saturday

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS) 7-5, 5-7, 6-3

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-6 (7/2), 6-3

France 3 Romania 2

Simona Halep (ROM) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-4

Pauline Parmentier (FRA) bt Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2

Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) bt Simona Halep/Monica Niculescu (ROM) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4

Played on Saturday

Simona Halep (ROM) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-3, 6-1

Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) 6-3, 6-3

Final: November 9-10

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