Australia's chase for a first Fed Cup crown since 1974 continues after a thrilling 6-4, 6-3 doubles decider victory in yesterday's final in Perth.
After world No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who won 6-0, 6-0 in her opening rubber on Saturday, was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic it fell to debutante Ajla Tomljanovic to keep the tie alive. Her 6-4, 7-5 win over replacement player Pauline Parmentier set up an all-or-nothing doubles tie which saw Australia's most successful Fed Cup player and former world No.4 team up with Barty. The French duo of Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia took the first set 6-4 before racing to a 4-1 lead in the second.
The hosts fought back in a thrilling ninth game before Mladenovic had three match points to finally close things out. She delivered with the second, ensuring a first Fed Cup crown since 2003 for France and third overall.
''It's lots of emotions to share this with Caroline,'' Mladenovic said. ''Three years ago we failed on the last step of the tie and today we just wanted to take this revenge for ourselves and it's just indescribable how we feel now.''
French team captain Julien Benneteau described himself as ''the proudest man on the planet right now. Its a dream for me".
''I tried to imagine it at the beginning of the year ... now eight months later here we are. I'm going to have a lot of beers," he said.
Earlier, the end of Barty's run of 15 consecutive singles wins put significant pressure on the inexperienced Tomljanovic.
In what the winner described as an "epic", Mladenovic came from a set down to win 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 32 minutes.
Mladenovic was lost for words after the marathon match, fighting back tears as she thanked the French fans.
After cruising through the first set, Barty had several break-point opportunities in the eighth game of the second set, when Mladenovic was serving at 3-4. But France held on and Mladenovic pulled it back to 4-4 to keep her in the rubber.
Then, suddenly, two back-to-back cross-court backhand winners set up two break points for Mladenovic and in the matter of minutes, the momentum had shifted.
Barty pulled one back but another errant ground stroke - a theme that was just beginning to creep into her game in the second set - cost her a break and all of a sudden Mladenovic was serving for the second set. It was her 15th unforced error up until that point in the second set, compared to just eight for the entirety of the first.
Barty, one of the calmest media performers in tennis, appeared displeased when asked if she was feeling "tight" in some of the bigger moments of the match.
"Did it look like it?" she asked back. "I don't think I did, I came back from a break down twice in the third set and Kiki just played a more aggressive tie break. From my point of view, I fought as hard as I could, I hope that I did my team proud."