The Cheering is Coming For Kristina Mladenovic
The bookies are having a field day and the commentators can’t stop talking about it. The women’s draw at the French open has never been more open. There is no favourite and seemingly everybody thinks they have a chance.
The one thing the French crowd are certain about, is that it’s time for a French winner. The enigmatic Mary Pierce held the trophy over her head in 2000. For the last 17 years the French crowd have had little to cheer about, until perhaps now?
Expectations are high and her game is even higher. She has been notching win after win on the WTA singles tour and only a fool would bet against her. She is already in Paris and out on the practice courts. Her name: Kristina Mladenovic. Calm, cool, elegant and collected and with a name that in Latin means “follower of Christ”- there is something about this 24 year old that is suddenly looking blessed. Mladenovic is now ranked number 14 in the world, and has eased her way into two back to back finals. She won one, and lost the other in Madrid, where she could have played better against the eventual champion, Simona Halep.
With 16 doubles titles to her name, she looks exceedingly comfortable in all parts of the court and has a deadly backhand drop shot. From time to time, she can be made to look a little slow, especially from side to side, but that’s a work in progress.
Once upon a time her regular doubles partner was French compatriot, Carolina Garcia, who is now also playing more singles these days. However, in Rome last week, Mladenovic played with great friend, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and the pairing only just lost the doubles final in a close tie break set.
Mladenovic has one singles title to her name, and is hungry for the next. Her level of current play suggests many more are coming and with wins this year against some top names such as Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kutznetsova, there is good reason for the French crowd to have high hopes.
When Mladenovic steps out on to Philippe Chatrier court for her first round match, she will experience something very new as the clear home favourite. How she will handle the expectations and pressure is unknown. But what is already known is that you should take your ear plugs with you. At last, the wait is over. The French have a name they can cheer about.