Champions France stumbled at the first hurdle as they lost to Canada in their opening tie of the maiden Billie Jean King Cup final tournament in Prague on Monday.
The 2019 Fed Cup champions and the top seeds of its rebranded version have to beat a strong Russian team on Wednesday to keep their hopes of making the play-offs alive.
Belgium, Spain and the Czech Republic started the tournament with wins, securing an advantage ahead of the second and final ties in the three-member groups.
France’s Fiona Ferro lost the opening rubber to world number 353 Francoise Abanda 6-4, 4-6, 4-6.
Alize Cornet levelled the score by edging Rebecca Marino 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) but then lost the decisive doubles rubber alongside Clara Burel 3-6, 6-7 (6/8) at the hands of Gabriela Dabrowski and Marino.
Canada were a late addition to the tournament, replacing Hungary after Budapest passed on the hosting rights to Prague.
“To beat the number one is obviously incredible and I think we should be really proud of ourselves,” Marino beamed after the doubles rubber.
As a team we came together and fought with a lot of heart,” she added.
In the other afternoon tie, Belgium won both singles to beat Belarus 2-1 in Group B.
Belgium’s Greet Minnen first eased past Irina Shymanovich 6-2, 6-2 in the opening rubber.
Elise Mertens added a second point when she overpowered Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Sasnovich and Vera Lapko then won a consolation point for Belarus as they beat Mertens and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-3.
“We started really strong, Greet was doing very well and that made it easier for me,” said Mertens.
“Today we’re happy that we won both singles so we eventually took the win.”
Hosts the Czech Republic, who won six of the last nine Fed Cup editions, edged Germany after Marketa Vondrousova first swept Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 6-3.
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