PARIS, France - Kristina Mladenovic thrills the home crowd with the biggest win of her young career, knocking out defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, to advance into the last eight at Roland Garros.
"I think, for me, it's great to win such an important match and to reach the quarterfinal for first time here in Paris," she said after the match.
Mladenovic's French Open campaign nearly ended before it began when she blocked her back ahead of her first round match against Jennifer Brady. The hometown favorite survived and has only looked stronger since that tentative start, showing the kind of form that helped her reach back-to-back finals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and Mutua Madrid Open.
"Every single day is a new challenge. I always do believe in myself, that I'm strong enough mentally at least give my best tennis out there and have no regrets and not, go out from the court and say, 'Okay, I couldn't handle at all those atmosphere, those nerves, or I didn't even play my tennis,' and then you regret it and you feel kind of weak.
"I believe in myself that I'm going to give myself out there, and then the outcomes, the results, doesn't always depend of me. It's been a huge new challenge every single day, different circumstances, different opponents, different scoreboard.
"But I just love that. It's a game overall, and it's nice, you know, to fight for those momentums and eventually wins."
Muguruza, by contrast, enjoyed a stronger start than many believed possible given her tough draw. Making it past 2010 champion and avenging a Stuttgart loss to Anett Kontaveit in three sets, the defending champion seemed like she was rounding into form ahead of her first meeting with Mladenovic since 2015.
The Frenchwoman took that match in a pair of tiebreaks two years ago, and was even more emphatic to start their encounter on Court Suzanne Lenglen, getting out to a double break lead and clinching the opening set off some fearless forehand winners.
"The atmosphere was just amazing, I thought, even though it's not easy to handle for both of us. It's lots of pressure, even for me, even if I had like a thousand people screaming and cheering up for me, it's not easy to control the nerves and the pressure. I could also hear that same thousand of people feeling so down when I would double fault. So it's not easy to concentrate and keep, you know, the confidence up and to keep it up."
Muguruza reversed the trend with a 4-1 lead of her own to start the second set, holding off a late surge from Mladenovic to break once more and level the match.
Undaunted, Mladenovic continued to engage the partisan crowd with scintillating tennis, breaking serve to kick off the decider and holding on through several tough games that followed.
"It's amazing to play in such a great stage with such an atmosphere, because, you know, at the end of the day, from my opinion, it's sport, it's a show. We try to show our best tennis, to entertain people, to show out there some fight, some emotion. And I think that's how it should be; there's a kind of beauty of a great match like that."
In the least dramatic turn of the match, the No.13 seed rolled through the final two games to clinch her spot in the quarterfinals after just under two hours on court.
In all, Muguruza hit one more winner (24 to 23) but four more errors (34 to 29), including several from winning positions in the rally.
"I couldn't really find my game, but I don't think I did really something wrong out there," an emotional Muguruza said after the match. "You know, I just think it went to her side, and that's all. There was a few points that she played well at the end of the match, and kind of that was it."
Up next for the French star is either 2015 semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky, who defeated 2002 runner-up and former World No.1 Venus Williams in three sets.
"I think it's gonna be a very interesting and exciting match, especially since there's lots of variety in both of our games. She's a great player. She always has had a great success in Paris playing well.
"I didn't yet think about what I'm going to do exactly, because I'm still in today's day, enjoying this win, and I will have time to prepare. I'm not sure how many times we played against each other, but Fed Cup was the last one, and that was such a great fight, entertaining and long battle.
"So I have no doubt it's going to be another new one in two days."