Kristina Mladenovic has ended her regular season with a three-set loss in her opening round match at the Kremlin Cup. Although the result was a loss, there are some positives for the Frenchwoman to take away: she won her first set since Washington. There have been three different WTA #1s since Mladenovic last won a match. How has a player on a ten match losing streak managed to break the top 10?
Superb Start to the Season
Aside from the Australian Open, Mladenovic was playing some of the best tennis from anybody in the first half of the year. She won thirty-one out of her first forty-two matches this season which just shows how she caught fire and went on a sustained purple match. During this hot streak she won her maiden WTA title in St Petersburg and the Frenchwoman reached three other finals–in Acapulco, Stuttgart, and Madrid (a Premier Mandatory event). During Roland Garros, she electrified the French crowd on the way to her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal; those watching her that fortnight were anticipating a star in the making who would continue her impressive run of form. Unfortunately for Mladenovic, that was her last successful tournament of the year.
We now know that Kristina Mladenovic injured her knee whilst playing at Wimbledon. “I had some issues after Wimbledon with my knee. I tore the inside ligament of my knee when I fell down in my second round match,” the Frenchwoman told the media. That may be a reason for her poor run of form that contrasts so greatly to her tennis in the early months of the year. After Beijing, the French Open quarterfinalist took fifteen days out of competition to dedicate to rehabilitation on her knee. “I have a real desire to try to finish the end of the season on a better note,” Mladenovic said on her Twitter just before Moscow. She only has one more event left of the season: the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
Poor Run of Form
As mentioned previously, the Frenchwoman lately has been playing some tennis that it is not even capable of being inside the top 100, let alone top 10. She has lost twenty out of her last twenty-one sets and at one point, had lost nineteen sets in a row dating back to Washington. Mladenovic even lost a match 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of Tokyo to the world #57 Wang. The last time she won a match was at Washington which, for emphasis, is a tournament that took place before the US Open. Since she last won a match an awful lot has happened in the tennis world: Andy Murray was the world #1; Sloane Stephens was ranked outside the world’s top 900; Kei Nishikori was still playing tennis; Karolina Pliskova was on top of the WTA rankings.
Contrast to Caroline Garcia
Another fact about the complexion of the tennis rankings when Mladenovic last won a match is that her ex-doubles partner, Caroline Garcia, was ranked #20 in the world. Now Garcia is inside the top 10 after a stunning fortnight that saw her win titles in Wuhan and Beijing back-to-back. Garcia also made the quarterfinals of Roland Garros but was overshadowed by the crowd-pleasing Mladenovic. The two players had notably fallen out when they split as a doubles team and since then, the two players have gone on very different journeys to the top 10. Kristina Mladenovic has lost her last ten matches as she achieves this milestone whereas Caroline Garcia enjoyed an eleven match win streak to crack the top 10, and she will be competing in Singapore for the WTA Finals.
Start to 2018 Extremely Important For Mladenovic
The reason that the Frenchwoman will make her top 10 debut is because of her incredible start to the season. It shows how impressive she was at the beginning of the year that she is still able to break the top 10 despite having an awful record since the French Open. If she were able to keep her level up for the second half then she would surely be a top 5 player. However, she is not and that is what makes separates the best from the rest: the ability to bring a high level each week. Mladenovic reached four finals between February and May so it is imperative she defends those points. Failure to do so will see her plummet down the rankings.
A good week in Zhuhai can give her some “insurance points” and some to fall back on if she cannot defend her points. Mladenovic also did not do well at the Australian Open and if she can find her confidence again in the off season she could gain some hefty points. Her draw for the Australian Open will be made easier due to her higher seeding and she needs to make the most of the opportunity if she wants to stay in the top 10. Nevertheless, Kristina Mladenovic is a fantastic talent and we hope to see the Frenchwoman back to her best very soon.