"Are you aware that France is in the Fed Cup final? " Asked about the existence of a "Generational gap" in French women's tennis after her defeat in the second round of Roland-Garros in singles in May, Kristina Mladenovic – the future winner of the double tournament – had sent a journalist to wander over him, asking him this question, judging his own "Displaced".
The formulation was perhaps clumsy, but the finding of failure was not wrong since no French player has qualified for the third round of the French Open, which had not happened in thirty-three years. Six months later, we can not say that they have reversed the trend: this Fed Cup final against Australia (Saturday 9 and Sunday, November 10) is the last opportunity to save collectively what could not to be individually this season.
Kristina Mladenovic (39e World)? No final (singles) disputed, which had not happened to him for six years, and never better than second rounds in Grand Slam. Caroline Garcia (45e)? A title (Nottingham), but a tumble in the rankings: she was still 4e fourteen months ago. Alizé Cornet (60e)? Early eliminations shovel for the Nicoise, decidedly difficult to follow even for his coach, with whom she had returned this season, before parting. Pauline Parmentier (121e)? Seventeen victories, twenty-nine defeats since January.
Only the youngest, Fiona Ferro (22, 63e), has given encouraging signs: she joined the top 100 in April and won, in July in Lausanne, her first title on the main circuit, taking the best on Alizé Cornet. At the US Open, she had already beaten Mladenovic.
Second final in three years
In this context, go beat Australia's no 1 World Ashleigh Barty on his land looks like a double-bodied task. Barty, laureate of the last Roland-Garros, will challenge the French on hard alongside the experienced Samantha Stosur (35, 92e World).
Of Croatian origin, Ajla Tomljanovic (51e) was declared eligible on 15 October by the International Federation and was therefore summoned for the first time by Captain Alicia Molik. Astra Sharma (102e) and Priscilla Hon (118)e) complete the team.
Mladenovic against Tomljanovic, Garcia against Barty
Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia were selected by France captain Julien Benneteau for the first two singles of the Fed Cup final on Saturday in Perth. Mladenovic will enter first on the court to face Ajla Tomljanovic at 11 am local time (4 am in France). Garcia will then challenge Ashleigh Barty. "It's the logic of the ranking, but it was not that easy, there was a lot of thought. For Saturday, it's the best option for us "Benneteau justified. The Garcia-Mladenovic duo has also been selected for the eventual double-decider, while Barty and Samantha Stosur have been associated on the Australian side. But this does not bode the rest of the weekend: as for the last two singles of Sunday, the tricolor captain will be able to change his selection until the last moment or almost.
Blue captain Julien Benneteau has decided to keep the same group as in the first two rounds, in February (against Belgium) and in April (against Romania Simona Halep).
"It makes sense with the results of the year. They are the first French women in the rankings, and until then, they have answered present, they gave me enormous satisfaction. I trust these five to face the enormous challenge that lies ahead. "he justified last week at Bercy when announcing the composition.
Meanwhile, Mladenovic won the year-end Masters in Shenzhen (China) in doubles, which brings together the four best pairs of the season, for the second successive time, associated with the Hungarian Timea Babos. The simple, him, saw the coronation … of Ashleigh Barty.
Australia, which has seven Fed Cups to its name, is aiming for a first title in the competition since 1974. Winner twice (1997 and 2003), France, it plays its second final in three years, after that lost against the Czech republic.
"Relations have normalized, there is a lot of respect between each of us, we are very professional"
In 2016, under the captaincy of Amelie Mauresmo, Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic lost in the fifth match and double decisive despite their status as world number two of the specialty at the time.
The result has given rise to a psychodrama: Garcia has decided to withdraw from the Blue, Mladenovic would have been prevented by simple texting, triggering the "LOL gate", a Tweet signed Mladenovic, Parmentier and Cornet questioning the package, in April 2017, from Garcia to the Fed Cup for medical reasons.
In February, Benneteau was able to convince the ex-no 1 French to return to the team and today, to hear the interested, everything is going well for the best of the worlds. "Relations have normalized, there is a lot of respect between each of us, we are very professional, ensures World Caroline Garcia. After, what happened, it will always be a little bit engraved in memory, but we manage to separate things. "
Only reason for annoyance: with the time difference, the matches will be broadcast at night in France (from 4 am). The French Federation has tried to negotiate with the international and Australian federations for later programming. Without success.
The captain prefers to be ironic about this situation: "Maybe live, there will not be many people. On the other hand, all day long, from 7 am to 8 pm – because we're going to finish around 7 or 8 am – it's going to loop over the news channels, the sports channels, the radios … Every half-hour we'll hear : "France won the Fed Cup"It's going to be fabulous On arrival it will have a lot more impact. "
Doubt never lived when he was a player. As captain no longer visibly.