Getting To Know... Kristina Mladenovic
Published September 11, 2012 11:58
QUÉBEC CITY, Canada - What do the following names have in common: Martina Hingis, Amélie Mauresmo, Justine Henin, Nadia Petrova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Kristina Mladenovic? Answer: they have all won the junior singles title at Roland Garros in the last 20 years.
The last player on that list may not be the household name that the other five are just yet, but if recent events are anything to go by that could all be about to change. After several years struggling under the burden of being French tennis' next big thing, Mladenovic finally cast off the shackles with a breakthrough performance at the US Open, defeating No.17 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during a run to the third round.
Next stop off for the 19-year-old is Québec City, where a good run will take her a step closer to a place in the Top 100. And after a tough first round win over Madison Brengle, she sat down for a not-so-quick chat with wtatennis.com.
How did you get into tennis?
KM: Both of my parents were professional athletes - my father played handball and my mother volleyball - so they really encouraged me to try out all sports when I was young; I played mini-handball, volleyball, swimming and also tennis! They were inspired by watching Monica Seles, who was from Yugoslavia like them, and sent me to the local club when I was about 8. From the first time the coach saw me, he was like, 'wow, is this the first time she is playing?' I think he saw something in me and encouraged me to continue.
When did you start taking your tennis seriously?
KM: At about 12, I began to think that tennis is the sport for me. At 13 I began studying by correspondence and travelling more, playing tournaments. In 2007 when I was European Under 14 champion in singles, I really decided that this is what I want to do in my life.
Can you tell us about your family?
KM: My mother is Dzenita and my father is Dragan. They come from the part of Yugoslavia that is now Serbia and they moved to France because my father was signed in 1992 by the First Division handball team in Dunkirk. I also have a younger brother called Luka. He's 16 and still at school and is a promising soccer player.
Who coaches you at the moment?
KM: My coach is former French ATP player Thierry Ascione. Actually, we just started together at Wimbledon. Before this I was sharing a coach, Biljana Veselinovic, with Lucie Safarova. I started with Biljana at the beginning of the year and we had the goal to make me a Top 100 player so then it would make it easier to share with Lucie as we could play the same tournaments. Unfortunately, things didn't go the way we wanted so we decided to stop, but so far things are working well with Thierry.
What have you been working to improve under your new setup?
KM: Alongside my dad, who also helps with my conditioning, we have worked a lot on fitness. I was injured a bit in 2009 and 2010, so coming back was really difficult, but now I've arrived at the stage where I can practice more and do more tough training. We are also working on more technical things; I'm a very powerful girl and I have been working on serving hard and being aggressive on the return and the first two or three shots as this is my game. We have also been working on being precise on my footwork so I can hit hard whenever the first or second ball is coming to me.
If you could have any shot from another player, what would it be?
KM: Men's or women's? I'm pretty happy with my technique, like serve, forehand, backhand, but I'm really impressed by the one-handed backhand and I think I would take Roger Federer's slice backhand.
What has been you best memory in tennis so far?
KM: I would say the US Open. I had been given a few wildcards to Grand Slams before but always got tough draws or was really close to winning. I was getting really impatient, thinking, 'when is it going to be my time?' In New York, it was really emotional to finally win against Marina Erakovic in the first round, then I beat my first Top 20 player and these results made me so happy. I had been playing well in doubles this year, but when I got these results in Grand Slams it really gave me the belief that I can make it. I would also say representing France at the Fed Cup and Olympics was very special and something that means a lot to me.
Did you get to watch any other sports at the Olympics?
KM: I am a big fan of beach volleyball, but I was so sad because we didn't get to go there as we didn't have tickets, so we watched this on TV instead. The sport we watched live was handball as those were the only tickets we could grab, but it was still such a nice experience just to be there at the Olympics.
Did you have a tennis idol growing up?
KM: This question is really complicated for me. I've never had an idol - someone I was trying to copy. I like to watch other players and see how they are playing, but since I got a wildcard at 14 for the Australian Open, from this stage I have always been thinking, 'any of them can be my next opponent, so I'm not going to try and copy them or idolize them.' Obviously I admire Serena's career or Roger Federer's or Nadal's, because they are legends and I'm full of respect for them, but I've never had someone in my mind I was dreaming about and wanting to be. I have my own personality and I've never wanted to copy someone else.
Who has been your toughest opponent?
KM: Well, I've just started so I've not played so many top, high-level players. The best I've played was maybe Li Na at the French Open, but I have never really felt there was a player who I could do nothing against or was too tricky for my game. I'll have to check my activity, because maybe I am forgetting somebody!
What is your favorite surface?
KM: That's the question that everybody asks me! Well, I really enjoy grass - I made the junior finals at Wimbledon in singles and doubles - but I've also had good results on clay and hard, so I really don't have one favorite surface. I think I can adapt my game to any surface. If I had to choose one, I would say I'm enjoying even more the grass!
How far did you go in your education?
KM: I finished high school about two years ago. I was studying a long time by correspondence so I'm really proud to finally get the baccalauréat.
How do you relax away from the court?
KM: During the tournament, I have my routine; I have some treatment, rest a little, listen to music, watch some TV series and movies and chatting or Skyping with my friends and family. But when I'm home, I'm trying to spend more time with my brother and family, I like to go and watch my brother play soccer. Otherwise, I like to walk around Paris, where I live, and just hang out with my friends. Another of my hobbies when I'm on holiday is to play beach volleyball, although I don't get to do this too often.
Do you have a favorite film or musician?
KM: Umm, tough one! I listen to lots of different types of music, like Serbian, Reggae, South American, French and then modern music like Rihanna, Chris Brown and David Guetta and all those other pop hits we are all singing and dancing to. Films? I think Gladiator is the most impressive film I have seen in my life.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
KM: I wish my friends could answer this question! Umm, ambitious.
If you could meet anyone in the world who would you like it to be?
KM: This is another tough one, can I come back tomorrow and answer this. I need to think about it tonight and give you a true answer!
Where would be your ideal holiday destination?
KM: I am more of a beach and sun person, you know with beach volleyball, party and relaxing by the sea. Definitely this kind of holiday where it is really hot and I can enjoy the summer and go swimming in the sea with my friends. I really like Croatia; it is such a nice country and close to Serbia. I spent a lot of summers there when I was younger and it's like a paradise and not too far from home. Spain is great too! I was there the other year and it was really nice.