Ashleigh Barty looks for Fed Cup glory to cap fine year

Ashleigh Barty celebrates
Ashleigh Barty celebrates

Ashleigh Barty will aim to end a stellar year by helping Australia win the Fed Cup for the first time in 45 years.

The world number one finished the regular season by adding the WTA Finals title to her maiden grand slam at the French Open in June and has a lead of nearly 2,000 points at the top of the rankings.

Victory over France in Perth would be the icing on the cake, with Australia having lost their last eight finals, the most recent in 1993.

Barty is on a tremendous winning streak of 14 matches in Fed Cup and has been part of all six rubbers that Australia have won this year in victories over the USA and Belarus.

Should she add another three victories to that tally, she will become the first player to win nine rubbers in a year since the current format was adopted more than 20 years ago.

The format will be changed next year, with a World Cup-style finals week being introduced to match the Davis Cup, adding an extra incentive for Australia to end their losing finals run at home.

"Fed Cup is in my calendar before any other tournament," Barty told fedcup.com.

"It is an amazing achievement to be involved in a Fed Cup final, but we don't just want to make the final. For all of us to be able to say that we are Fed Cup champions would be special.

"For all our players, staff and the Australian public in general, it's been a long time between drinks and for us to have this opportunity is incredible."

Barty will play the second match of the tie on Saturday against French number two Caroline Garcia while, in the first match, Ajla Tomljanovic will make her debut for Australia against Kristina Mladenovic.

Tomljanovic, ranked 51, was controversially cleared to play for Australia just before the tie despite having previously competed for her native Croatia.

The reverse singles will take place on Sunday followed, if necessary, by a deciding doubles rubber.

France have been Fed Cup champions twice, in 1997 and 2003, and Mladenovic and Garcia both played in their most recent final appearance, a defeat by the Czech Republic three years ago.

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