PARIS (The Southern African Times) — Kristina Mladenovic blamed her French Open meltdown on her U.S. Open lockdown — and she wasn’t too pleased about a no-call on a double bounce that helped her opponent avoid ceding the first set Wednesday, either.
France’s Mladenovic lost 7-5, 6-3 in the first round at Roland Garros to Laura Siegemund, blowing a 5-1 lead in the opening set after holding a set point that she thought she converted with a drop shot.
Mladenovic was furious that chair umpire Eva Asderaki didn’t spot the extra bounce that came during a 10-stroke exchange. Siegemund ran for Mladenovic’s short ball and got it back over the net — although a TV replay showed the ball had bounced twice.
“I think the chair umpire was the only person not to have seen it,” said Mladenovic, who was thrown off when the point continued and wound up touching the net, automatically giving the point to Siegemund.
“Mistakes are human, but I don’t see how the umpire can miss that. She didn’t see a double bounce,” Mladenovic said. “Unfortunately, she will continue at Roland Garros, and I won’t continue at Roland Garros.”
Mladenovic would have been pleasantly surprised if Siegemund acknowledged the double bounce herself.
“If she would have done it, she would have all my respect and be super fair play,” Mladenovic said. “But she’s not the one responsible. I think the chair umpire is the one that should be really focused on that call.”
In her most recent tournament, at Flushing Meadows this month, Mladenovic threw away a 6-1, 5-1 lead in her second-round singles match. Then she got kicked out of doubles at the U.S. Open — where she and Timea Babos were seeded No. 1 — because she came in contact during a practice session and card game with a countryman, Benoit Paire, who tested positive for the coronavirus in New York.
Public health officials said Mladenovic was at risk and was placed in quarantine after her singles exit but just before her doubles match.
“Definitely not the preparation I wanted to have coming up to Roland Garros. I couldn’t prepare the way I wanted, so it obviously affected my whole preparation,” Mladenovic said. “I wanted to play Rome, to play Strasbourg, but I couldn’t be ready for it.”
Not having access to a gym was bad enough, but stuck inside four walls was on another level.
“It’s brutal for the body when you (have) eight days (of) lockdown in a hotel room,” Mladenovic said Wednesday. “Even the first week, where I competed in my singles, I was basically isolated and couldn’t train.”
All in all, she said, “Not a great experience.”
Danish women are so scarce in top-level tennis that you would have to go all the way back to 1989 to find one not named Caroline Wozniacki in the second round of any Grand Slam tournament.
Until Tuesday, that is. That’s when 17-year-old qualifier Clara Tauson earned her first tour-level victory — in her main-draw debut at a major, no less — by eliminating U.S. Open semifinalist and No. 21 seed Jennifer Brady 6-4, 3-6, 9-7.
Quite a breakthrough for Tauson, who was ranked No. 1 as a junior and won the girls’ title at last year’s Australian Open.
“I was just grateful to be there,” Tauson said after the 2-hour, 45-minute match on Court Simonne Mathieu, the third-biggest arena at Roland Garros.
“I’ve never really experienced a match like that,” she said.
Tauson erased a 4-2 deficit in the final set and saved two match points before closing out the victory on her fifth chance.
Tauson grew up watching Wozniacki, who retired this year after reaching No. 1 during a career that included an Australian Open title in 2018.
“Of course, Caroline was a huge role model for me. Denmark is a very small tennis country and she made it out,” Tauson said. “That made me think I could make it out, also, on the tour.”
She is based at four-time French Open champion Justine Henin’s academy in Belgium, where Tauson works with coach Olivier Jeunehomme.
“She was there at some of my match today, and she’s always at the academy, always saying hello and watching some of my practices,” Tauson said about Henin. “She’s also a great inspiration. She’s done pretty well here also in her career. So I’m trying to do the same.”
EGYPTIAN TENNIS PIONEER
Mayar Sherif is the first woman from Egypt to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. Even threw a scare into the French Open’s No. 2 seed.
Now Sherif wants another wish to come true: a phone call from countryman Mohamed Salah, the soccer star who helped Liverpool win the Premier League last season and is a two-time African Player of the Year.
“He hasn’t reached out. I wish he would, that would be very, very, nice,” Sherif said after losing to 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“It was amazing feeling. I cannot describe it. It just gave me so much energy,” said Sherif, who is ranked 172nd and went through qualifying to earn a spot in the field in Paris. “I loved playing in the stadium. I loved having attention. I loved people being there, supporting. I enjoyed so much, enjoyed the pressure moments.”
While the 24-year-old Sherif is just starting out on tennis’ big stage, Salah is well used to starring on it and is a huge name back home.
“He’s one of the best football players in the world and to see someone very successful supporting other people in his country, it just gives you some energy,” she said.
If the call does come, she’d like to pick his brain.
“The thing I would ask him is how did he break the barrier of believing, or being the first of doing something so big from Egypt, as a person that comes from Egypt?” she said. “How did he go through that? And how were the stages to get to the point to where he is now?”