After a stellar junior career, highlighted by the Roland Garros title in 2009, there were high hopes for Mladenovic when she joined the senior ranks. However, she has struggled somewhat under the weight of expectation, particularly this year, winning just a handful of main draw matches.
The Turning Point
Despite her recent difficulties, Mladenovic was brimming with confidence on Chatrier and was rewarded for her attacking intent when she pinched the first set from under Li's nose. An accomplished doubles player, the Frenchwoman looked eager to exhibit her all-court skills, venturing to the net to fend off a set point at 5-4 before returning a couple of games later to help serve it out.
To the disappointment of the upset-hungry crowd, a lull at the start of the second set allowed Li an immediate route back into the contest, which she grabbed with both hands to force a decider. The final set went on serve until the fourth game, when a couple of unforced errors and an untimely double fault from Li handed over the break. With the finishing line now in sight, Mladenovic went for the jugular, targeting the Li forehand to break again before serving out for a famous victory.
By The Numbers
Following her successes against Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova at Paris' other WTA stop-off, the Open GDF SUEZ, all three of Mladenovic's Top 10 wins have come in the French capital. The numbers make less enjoyable reading for Li, who becomes the first reigning Australian Open champion to fall in the first round at Roland Garros since Lindsay Davenport's loss to Dominique Monami in 2000. With Stan Wawrinka also losing, it is also the first time in Open Era history that both the men's and women's Australian Open champions have lost in the opening round at Roland Garros.
"After the draw I wasn't very happy, but I made sure I prepared as well as I could and was ready to play my best tennis," Mladenovic said in her on-court interview. "When I got on court, I thought, 'I'm at home, be positive.'
"I tried to get my forehand into play and attack her forehand whenever I could and it worked well. I'm really glad I could produce such good tennis in front of all these supporters!"