ROME, Italy - Kristina Mladenovic's resurgent run continued at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia as the former World No.10 dismissed Miami Open champion Ashleigh Barty, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the last eight at the Foro Italico.
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After surviving Belinda Bencic earlier in the day, the Frenchwoman - who recently added Sascha Bajin to her coaching team - made quick work of the young Aussie, advancing after one hour and 15 minutes on Court 4.
"It was two different matches against two really good players," Mladenovic said after beating Barty. "Especially they both in very good form this year, playing well.
"In general, what can I say? It was a very successful day at the office."
Mladenovic kickstarted her 2019 season with a win over reigning World No.1 Naomi Osaka at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but hadn't beaten a Top 10 player on clay since the 2017 French Open - where she dethroned defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza. Showing no signs of fatigue from her earlier victory, she enjoyed a quick start against Barty, who recovered from a set down to defeat rising Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova on Tuesday.
"I think when you feel physically ready, you feel more confident. I had no doubt about physical shape, if I could handle potentially two long matches. Then there's another side where you have actually to play good, to win the first one, then give yourself a chance to have a good second one."
Though Barty got on the board after falling behind 0-4, Mladenovic maintained her lead and served out the opening set to love.
"I've been through ups and downs already few times. I'm not getting too excited now because I know actually I felt this before, these results. Of course, I'm happy. Of course, it feels great to finish a match being the winner.
"I just stay calm about it. I'm like, 'Okay, it's cool, next opportunity for next match.' I try to learn more and improve. I'm also aware that it's never a straight line. I don't know, in a few weeks or few months, it can be again a bad feeling or period."
Breaking to start the second set, she continued to press towards the finish line, fighting through the longest game of the match and holding for 4-2 after a searing forehand winner.
.@KikiMladenovic in control at the @InteBNLdItalia!
She take the opening set 6-2 in the third round clash! pic.twitter.com/YWja1nsI0c
— WTA (@WTA) May 16, 2019
Securing victory on her first match point, Mladenovic booked her third WTA quarterfinal of 2019, and her first ever at a Premier 5 tournament - though she previously reached the BNP Paribas Open semifinals and Mutua Madrid Open final, both Premier Mandatory events.
"It's endlessly ups and downs in sport. I think with the experience I'm kind of more calm. Either it's a loss or a win. For sure I'm very happy that let's say in a short period of time I already feel like the work I'm doing also with Sascha helps me and it's going in the right direction again for my tennis."
Standing between the qualifier and a spot in the semifinals will be Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem champion Maria Sakkari, who survived No.2 seed Petra Kvitova after the two-time Wimbledon winner was forced to retire trailing, 7-5, 5-7, 4-0.
"I have to say clay helps me. Every time I come back on clay, I'm like, 'Okay, I'll try things.' I feel like I have more time to kind of produce my game.
"I'm loving what I'm working on with Sascha. He helps me a lot because I found with him someone that likes to spend hours and hours on court with me. I have to say he brought on some new exercises. We have the same vision of my tennis, but he kind of brought new exercises to this same vision and goal. It helps me for sure in my consistency again. I think that's making the difference right now in the fact I'm winning more matches."
"Maria, I'm not sure I've ever played her. I mean, she's also such a great player, big fighter, ready physically. We actually practiced together off-season already two years in a row. She comes in Dubai and we have some good practices, some good time. She's a good girl I like. She's always in a good mood. We never played. For sure she must be playing good. I was happy for her for a first title in Rabat."