Mladenovic goes back to childhood to move career forwards
By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - After a promising start to her career, Kristina Mladenovic looked set to join the long list of talented French tennis players who failed to make it to the top - until a shock French Open win against Li Na put her back on the launchpad.
The 21-year-old kept her composure in a 7-5 3-6 6-1 first-round defeat of the 2011 champion from China, also this year's Australian Open winner, which cleared her path to a possible grand-slam breakthrough as she returned to her childhood support to make progress.
"It means really a lot, especially at a grand slam. It proves that I'm here and it gives me more strength to continue," said Mladenovic, who will take on world No.45 Alison Riske, of the United States, in the second round.
Mladenovic dropped to 103rd in the world after reaching a career-high 36th last year, but now believes she has an obligation to capitalize on her win on court Suzanne Lenglen.
"When you beat Li Na you don't think about losing in the next round," explained Mladenovic, who is of Serbian descent.
"It would be a shame (to lose). I'm going to enjoy this and I will have a lot of expectations for myself in the next round."
Mladenovic's career had appeared to be on the right path when she won the juniors' title at the French Open in 2009. But just like many other French players before her, she never managed to fulfill her country's lofty expectations.
Her only WTA title came in 2012 when the six-footer, who likes to put a lot of pace into rallies, prevailed in Taipei. Continued...