In a clash between two former top ten players, Kristina Mladenovic of France, the 29th seed, takes on Andrea Petkovic, who was once ranked as high as 9th in the world, but now finds herself outside the top 100. Mladenovic, the French #2, provided France with a hope of a native champion by reaching the quarterfinals last year, only to fall just short. The pressure will be on her once again to deliver. But will she be able to overcome Petkovic or will the veteran German triumph on Lenglen?
Mladenovic and Petkovic have met four times before on Tour in singles, and once in doubles. In the former discipline, Petkovic has been dominant, winning all four matches. Their first meeting was four years ago in Bercy, where Petkovic won in straight sets in the round of 16. The German backed that win up with another later that year at Roland Garros in the third round, winning a hard-fought three set battle 6-4 4-6 6-4.
She was dominant a year later in Miami in 2015, defeating Mladenovic 6-0 6-2 in the round of 32. In their most recent meeting in Stuttgart in 2016, it was again Petkovic who was triumphant as she defeated Mladenovic in straight sets 6-2 6-4. In doubles action, however, Mladenovic and Babos were able to get the better of Petkovic and Rybarikova at Wimbledon in 2014 in the semifinals, though they were beaten in the final by the Italian pairing of Vinci and Errani.
Last time out
It has been a season of struggle in singles for Mladenovic, which is not perhaps a huge surprise after the torrid run of results she endured towards the end of last year. She has reached just one final this season, losing to Petra Kvitova 1-6 2-6 in St Petersburg in February. Her best result so far this clay court season was reaching the third round in Madrid, impressively defeating Coco Vandeweghe and Zhang Shuai, before falling to Sharapova. She then lost in the first round to Sevastova in Rome.
Petkovic’s results have tailed off badly over the past few seasons, and she has not reached the second week of a Major since 2014 at the French Open. This season, she has played principally at the smaller tournaments, and did not appear in either Rome or Madrid. She did play two ITF events in France, reaching the semifinals in Cagnes-Sur-Mer before losing in the second round in Trnava to Kurumi Nara of Japan. She also lost first round in Nuremberg last week to the sixth seeded Sorana Cirstea.
How do they match up?
Mladenovic, who has found great success as a doubles player, a discipline in which she has twice been crowned a Slam champion, unsurprisingly deploys an all-court style when playing singles. WTA doubles generally produces more rounded players than the ATP circuit, where much more of the play is in the forecourt. As a result, Mladenovic has good groundstrokes, particularly her forehand which is her biggest weapon. Her serve can fail her, however, with double faults a regular presence in her game.
Petkovic plays more of her tennis from the baseline than the forecourt. Though she is not blessed with the same power as some of her contemporaries, Petkovic is an excellent counter-puncher. She deals with pace into her backhand particularly well, with one of her favoured tactics redirecting backhands down the line, often to good effect. But her serve, particularly her second delivery, can lack pace which has been a weakness opponents have exploited throughout her career.
Neither woman comes into this match in great form, but Petkovic seems to have had Mladenovic’s number throughout their rivalry. And whilst the German may currently find herself outside the top 100, that is at least as much the result of consistent injury struggles as it is the fault of bad form. Mladenovic, however, is having tremendous difficulty winning matches, and has just 12 victories this year. She won’t make it 13 against Petkovic. The German to advance in three sets.