France’s Kristina Mladenovic has always been outspoken. She pulls few punches – right or wrong.
One of her less-gracious moments came after the 2015 Australian Open mixed doubles final, where she teamed with Daniel Nestor of Canda. They were the defending champions, and also won the Wimbledon mixed together in 2013.
In her runner-up trophy speech, she pretty much threw her doubles legend partner under the bus for his play. And then she basically dismissed Martina Hingis, who defeated them with partner Leander Paes, as less than all that.
Now that Mladenovic is announcing her arrival at the top level of the game, a lot more people will be listening to her. It will be interesting to see if she remains the same outspoken player, because the reaction will be exponential.
The 23-year-old has … no shortage of self-confidence. That’s the diplomatic way of putting it.
A healthy ego is almost a requirement for a top-level athlete in an individual sport. But the smoothest among them manage to submerge that ego underneath a patina of statesmanship.
On the WTA Tour, there are far more players who would rather blend into the centre court backdrop than stand out there and let the bright lights wash over them.
That struggle to thrive under the spotlight and attention is one reason there has yet to be a major champion emerge in the post-Serena era. (The era may not be over yet, but the opening is now).
Mladenovic has always embraced all that. She has lived for it. Until this most consistent 2017 season, she was always a player who had “that” tag attached to her: great in the big moments, not the same player during the day-to-day grind of the Tour.
Now, her words will be under more scrutiny. A full length interview in L’Équipe’s weekend magazine gives you a sense. The interview was conducted about 10 days earlier, right after Mladenovic returned to Paris following her effort in Stuttgart.
Here are a few salty quotes, translated. It’s well worth the one euro it costs to get the original article and put it through Google translate. There’s a lot there.
On her gradual rise in the ranks:
“My progression has been steady and that’s what I like about my path. For a lot of girls, there’s a quick rise, than a drop, then they rise again, get to the top 10 and fall down again. Eugenie Bouchard is the most prominent example. Or my best friend on tour, Belinda Bencic; injuries have caught up to her. Garbiñe Muguruza also is struggling since her win at Roland-Garros. I’m progressing slowly, but I haven’t had any lows. I want to build something solid.”
On Fed Cup teammate and former doubles partner Caroline Garcia, Mladenovic was rather uncharitable.
“Yes, it upset me (that Garcia didn’t play Fed Cup in 2017). But I think we’ve talked about it enough. Caroline was helped by the Federation as much as I was – maybe more, because she hasn’t produced the results I have. That represents hundreds of thousands of Euros, wild cards into the Grand Slam … The other federations don’t offer that, even to their champions! From a very young age, the Spanish, the Romanians, the Czechs, the Russians pay their own way at academies to train. We have the good fortune to have a rich federation, because it has a Grand Slam. Some forget that quickly. In France, we have no right to complain. It should be a source of pride to represent one’s country. If it isn’t, there should at least be gratitude.”
On Garcia ending their doubles partnership:
“That she wanted to stop, I can understand. But she had a very disrespectful attitude and only had the courage to tell me by text. In fact, we’ve always contrasted and we would tell each other so, even when we won together. I’m very independent; she is completely controlled by her father. I speak five languages. I finished high school; she stopped her studies.”
About life on the tour:
“Life on tour is rough, yes, with girls who are very individualistic, sometimes jealous. But I don’t have that philosophy. I think if a girl plays well, it doesn’t stop me from playing well. She’s not going to take my spot – unlike in team sports, where your best friend wants to take your spot. If I play and I’m better than you, I’ll win. That’s it.”