Perth (Australia) (AFP) - Australian captain Alica Molik put a brave face on their Fed Cup defeat to France Sunday, insisting they will use it as fuel to finally snap a streak of nine final losses.
It meant Australia's 45-year wait to be crowned champions for an eighth time continues, with the country earning a reputation as one that can't finish the job after crashing at the last hurdle for a ninth straight time.
They last won in 1974 and have since lost the final over six consecutive years from 1975-80, then again in 1984 and 1993 before another failure Sunday.
Molik said the run of defeats wasn't for want of trying.
"We gave everything today, we fell just a fraction short. That happens," she said.
"I don't regret a single day of practice or preparation that we've had. I don't have any regrets, but it hurts a lot.
"It difficult for all of us to come to grips with losing because it means so much playing in front of our home crowd," she added.
World number one Barty was distraught at the end, crying as the defeat sunk in.
After a stunning breakthrough season, she was unexpectedly beaten in her singles rubber Sunday by Mladenovic in three epic sets and then in the doubles.
Despite the painful loss, she said it had been a privilege to be in the team, which also included Ajla Tomljanovic, Astra Sharma and Priscilla Hon.
"It's been an amazing year for us and to be able to get to the Fed Cup is very precious and we will cherish it," she said.
Molik said defeat would only motivate them to go one better next year, when the tournament format will be overhauled with 12 nations competing in a six-day event in Budapest.
"I think there's no question you get better through experience. We've lost in the final but it's pretty amazing the players got to feel what's it like to be in a final," she said.
"The last couple of years we have always expected to be a team that was in the final and next year because of this we'll expect to be in another Fed Cup final.
"We'll be stronger, more resilient and more prepared. What we'll do is use this moment for fuel to drive us into the future."