SINGAPORE - A day after defending champion Andrea Sestini Hlavackova advanced through her opening round match at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with Barbora Strycova, 2017 partner and former No.1 Timea Babos did the same alongside Kristina Mladenovic, racing into the semifinals, 6-0, 6-2 over Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be back, once again as a team, not only separately,” Babos said after the match. “We played a great match with a lot of consistency and discipline on our side. Even when we had some tougher moments, we handled them well, and adjusted our games. We can be pleased with how we played.”
Babos and Mladenovic first qualified for Singapore together in 2015, and were back the next year with Yaroslava Shvedova and Caroline Garcia, respectively before the Hungarian captured the title with Sestini Hlavackova last fall. Reuniting at the start of 2018, the childhood friends were on fire against Dabrowski and Xu, taking the opening eight games to ultimately emerge victorious after 53 minutes on court.
“We’ve known each other since under-14s,” Mladenovic said during the on-court interview. “She’s older than me by for days and she’s my best friend on tour and off. It’s very special to explain this connection on the court, and it’s our second time as a team here. We’re really enjoying it, as it’s the last time in Singapore. It’s our fourth time, and it’s really amazing. We’re honored to have been here almost every year.”
The reigning Australian Open champions struck an impressive 23 winners and converted six of nine break point opportunities, shaking off a minor hiccup early in the second set to get back on course and close out the China Open finalists.
“The scoreboard looks very easy and fast, but that was because we stayed disciplined and consistent on key moments and points. As soon as we slowed down, they took two games in a row, so we were good with our tactics, accurate as well. The choices were right, so it was the kind of day where attitude and discipline were key, and I think we performed well in those departments.”
Looking to reclaim the No.1 ranking with Mladenovic to start next season, Babos has complete confidence in their chemistry, recalling a long day spent together at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open after the match.
“We randomly went down to breakfast at 9 o’clock, and we stayed there until 6 o’clock at night, without moving and just talking. We took a bathroom break, and then had dinner together, so it was almost 14 hours. It goes to show how much we care about each other and how much we enjoy each other’s company.
“You have no idea what pressure it is to stand next to her, having to defend her title,” Mladenovic jokingly added. “I hope I looked ok today, and I’m definitely pumped to perform again as well as we did today.”
Standing between the No.2 seeds and a spot in the final are either Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs or US Open champion Ashleigh Barty and CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat Babos and Mladenovic to take that title from match point down back in September.
“This tournament is amazing. Every team has had an amazing season, with super big highlights. We’re definitely going to watch and take some notes, but we’ve played both of these teams already.
“In the semifinals of an amazing event, it’s routine to say that we expect a tough match, but it’s exactly how it is.”