WTA Insider David Kane | Former World No.1 Amélie Mauresmo takes a surging French team to Strasbourg against heady favorites in the Czech Republic.
WTA Staff

The stage is set in Strasbourg as the French headline their first Fed Cup final since 2005, when Amélie Mauresmo narrowly missed out on a hat-trick of titles to team Russia. Mauresmo is back at the helm over a decade later, captaining a next-generation squad that includes Roland Garros doubles winners Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

"I'm lucky it brings out their best tennis," the 2016 International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee told WTA Insider in July. "They feel so good playing on the team, and are able to express their best during this competition, I'm very fortunate with that. It's not only Caroline and Kiki, but also Alizé Cornet and Pauline Parmentier; I hope they can all rise to the occasion in November."

That occasion puts them head-to-head against defending champions in the Czech Republic, who have taken home the trophy in four of the last five years and took out the French in last April's semifinal.

"We have a very difficult team ahead of us. There's nothing to lose, being the underdogs. We'll give it a good fight."

Garcia will be ready for a good fight against the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova. The French No.1 won in Strasbourg earlier in the season, taking home the first of two titles in 2016.

Caroline Garcia, Amelie Mauresmo

"I'm really looking forward to it, but I'd rather be facing a team other than the Czechs!" she joked at the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai. "They have so many great players, that they could even make two teams from all the players they have in the Top 50.

"But we've done well this year; not long ago, we were almost out of World Group, and we were fighting just to stay in World Group II. Everything's come very fast for us. We are a very young team, and have nothing to lose; we will be in France, and we will give everything we have like we always do."

Mladenovic echoed her partner's sentiments after winning the Mutua Madrid Open doubles crown.

"We are all aware how tough it is to give all of yourself in Fed Cup every single year. Personally, I give a lot. You try to do your best, find a balance, and just be positive, work hard and keep going."

She and Garcia rode a 15-match winning streak through the start of the clay-court season, ultimately becoming the first all-French duo to triumph on the terre battue since 1971. Mauresmo took over coaching duties back in 2012, and admitted a need to adapt her strategies to a new set of national stars.

Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia

"It's another learning experience for me, how to adjust to people, how to adjust to different personalities, different structures as well. They don't operate the same way I did at all. You have to find different words, and it's a challenge each time. But I love it. I love to adjust, listen to people, and decide from there what is the best course of action."

Born in the same city as the two-time Grand Slam champion, Garcia earned the Fed Cup Heart Award following a heroic effort in the semifinals, where she and Mladenovic won a decisive doubles rubber to advance into the championship tie.

"I think it's been a great opportunity to work with her. She really likes this competition. She gives a lot of herself, a lot of energy on the court. She's had a lot of experience from her career in Fed Cup. She was No.1, won Grand Slams.

"She knows how tennis works, obviously. She trusts us and us on the court, that we can give everything. She wants us to win this Fed Cup; it was one of our goals, and now we're so close!"

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.