Mladenovic gives France 2-1 lead against Belgium

MOUILLERON-LE-CAPTIF, France (AP) Kristina Mladenovic rallied from 3-0 down in the second set to beat Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-4 and put France 2-1 up against Belgium in their Fed Cup first-round match on Sunday.

Mladenovic, who leveled the contest with victory against Kirsten Flipkens on Saturday, broke serve in the fifth game of the second set and then again in the seventh.

Her superior groundstrokes and ability to stay in rallies frustrated Mertens, who made a clumsy unforced error with a wild volley to give Mladenovic three match points at 0-40 in the ninth game.

Mertens, though, fought back to deuce and held serve following a gutsy drop shot and an ace.

Serving for the match, Mladenovic went 40-0 ahead and had another three match points. Mertens saved the first before her opponent clinched the win with a sliced ace.

In Sunday’s second reverse singles, Flipkens meets Pauline Parmentier before Mladenovic and Parmentier take on Ysaline Bonaventure and Alison Van Uytvanck in the doubles on the indoor court in western France.

France is without Alize Cornet, who has not been selected after she missed three out-of-competition doping tests over the past year.

Sunday’s winner faces the United States or the Netherlands in April.

France won the Fed Cup in 1997 and 2003 but has lost three times in the final since then, most recently in 2016.