AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France - France's Kristina Mladenovic handed CoCo Vandeweghe her first Fed Cup singles defeat in 14 matches in front of a raucous home crowd to pull her country level on day one of the Fed Cup semifinals, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
After losing six straight games as Vandeweghe blitzed to a one-set lead, Mladenovic dazzled with a display that whipped the crowd at the Arena du Pays d’Aix into a frenzy.
The top player for the home team in this weekend's tie, Mladenovic secured victory in one hour, 48 minutes to set up a winner-take-all day two on Sunday.
In Saturday's first match, US Open champion and World No.9 Sloane Stephens pulled off a thrilling escape, as she rallied from 5-2 down in the first set, saving five set points, and a break down in the second to defeat an inspired Pauline Parmentier, 7-6(3), 7-5 and give the United States its first point.
“That was a crazy match to be part of,” Mladenovic told reporters after the match, per fedcup.com's Kate Battersby. “It was hard stepping on court being one down, and then I had big trouble with the way CoCo started the match.
"I told myself that if she played this way for two entire sets, then hats' off and well done. I’m a fighter and I also have some tennis skills, so I found my way. It was a great way to finish the day. The crowd is pumped and so are we.”
Vandeweghe had been undefeated in Fed Cup singles action since 2015, and she showed her caliber in the first set despite being broken in the opening game.
The American handed her French foe a moral bagel in the first set after that, as she struck six winners and forced Mladenovic into 11 errors.
However, the Frenchwoman quickly righted the ship by winning the first three and last three games of the second set against the World No.16, and she hardly looked back from there.
Mladenovic broke Vandeweghe in each of her first three service games of the decider and never trailed for the duration to hand the American her first Fed Cup loss since the 2015 World Group Quarterfinals, where she was upended by Paula Ormaechea of Argentina.
While Vandeweghe saw a winning streak snapped, Stephens broke a small drought of Fed Cup futility with her opening singles win.
The World No.9 dropped both of her singles matches in last year's final, which the Americans nonetheless went on to win, 3-2, and she had last won a Fed Cup match over two years ago in the World Group quarterfinals against Poland.
“That was a battle,” Stephens told reporters after the match, per fedcup.com. “She played really well. Obviously, being down is never fun. I played much better in the tie-breaker and got a lot of confidence from that.
"I was fighting to stay in the match and play some good tennis. My first Fed Cup win in two years feels awesome.”
Sunday's reverse singles will see Mladenovic and Stephens face off in the first match, before Vandeweghe takes on Parmentier. Should the match come down to a deciding fifth rubber, Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse have been nominated to take on Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Keys.