'S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands - It's never easy to face a close friend on the tennis court, and it's even harder to do so when a final is at stake. But that's exactly what No.3 seed Kristina Mladenovic was asked to do and she delivered in emphatic fashion, coming back from a set down to defeat Belinda Bencic 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and reach her second career WTA final at the Ricoh Open.
"It feels actually quite nice to play against her," Bencic said after the match. "Obviously we are best friends, and it's nice because it's quite rare that you can have your best friend on the tennis circuit.
"We obviously expected to play each other someday, but we were both prepared."
It was a familiar situation for the pair of former Junior World No.1s: just last year in this very stage, Bencic was the one to best Mladenovic in the quarterfinals on her way to her 's-Hertogenbosch final appearance. This year the pair met again, with a spot in the final up for grabs.
But even that wasn't enough to drive the best friends apart, and they indulged in the usual selfies and pre-match banter on Twitter:
As soon as they stepped onto the court at the Ricoh Open, they were all business. Bencic raced through the opening set, taking it 6-2 in just 33 minutes, but nonetheless a troubling pattern emerged early on: the Swiss brought up nine break point chances and only converted on two.
In the following set, Mladenovic relied on her serve to bail her out of trouble time and time again, and her court movement began to come together. The Frenchwoman stormed back to take the second set 6-3, then completed her comeback to reach her second career WTA final. Bencic will surely rue the missed opportunities: in the last two sets, she created eight break chances and didn't convert once.
"It was definitely a very tough match, and a very tricky one," Mladenovic said afterward. "As probably everybody knows, Belinda is my best friend on the tour and in real life. It's a lifetime relationship. It's not easy."
But Mladenovic also acknowledged that despite having her best friend on the court against her, revenge was the one thing on her mind today.
"The funny part is that we have played each other just one time, exactly one year ago right here," she said. "It was a close match, three sets like this, and she won it. I'm just glad to have taken my revenge."
"Definitely the key of the match was composure," Vandeweghe said. "I think in previous matches against her, I've kind of lost my mind a little bit. But today once I kept my composure, I think the tennis took care of itself.
"My game, I think, is a little bit better suited than her game when we pair up against each other."
Vandeweghe owns the head-to-head record against Mladenovic with three wins in three previous matches, including one here in 's-Hertogenbosch qualifying two years ago.
? WTA (@WTA) June 11, 2016