French No.1 Kristina Mladenovic is delighted to be back on the tennis court again after the coronavirus pandemic and says that “it feels like I’ve never been away”.
The WTA World No.42 was last in action in March, when she made the second round of Lyon, where she lost in straight sets to Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Bouncing back from that defeat, however, has taken longer than she would have wished due to the suspension of the Tour due to Covid-19, and she has discussed how she has eased herself back in gently following an unprecedented layoff.
“It feels like I haven’t been away!” the Australian Open doubles champion told the official website of Roland Garros. “I’ve done what I had to do to stay toned and in shape and I’ve just tried to get my body and shoulder slowly going again. I had my first hits on May 13 at my club, at Lagardère Racing. It was on clay because it’s less stressful on the body.
“Hitting a tennis ball is like cycling and swimming; you don’t forget it. I just hit for 30 minutes on the first day, though, middle of the racquet, gently, without trying to hit it too hard.
“I gradually stepped up the intensity, especially with the serve, where your shoulder really comes into it. I was so happy to start playing again that I wanted to go flat out pretty much straightaway. I had to be sensible, though, and I’ve taken things gradually and gently.”
The 27-year-old is especially focused on hitting her peak in time to play the French Open, which will take place in late September instead of its usual June slot in the calendar.
“When you’re a competitor, that’s what you live for,” she said when asked of her eagerness to return to tournament action. “They’re even hoping to have crowds at Roland, which is very motivating.
“I never thought for a second that everything would be cancelled in 2020. There is still a lot of uncertainty on the health front, of course, and tennis is a sport that goes from venue to venue, with players who come from all over the world.
“It’s a nice thing to think about and it makes me want to get out there. But even now that desire to be on court and the joy I get from it are real. It shows me how much I love tennis.
“It’s all about being patient and positive. Those are the two key words for me right now.”
Mladenovic will be hoping to emulate her 2017 run in Paris, when she reached the quarterfinals of the event – her joint-best run at a major.