French Open: Kristina Mladenovic impresses in straight sets win over Timea Babos

It was a battle of the 23-year-olds which closed proceedings on day five of the French Open on court Philippe Chatrier as Kristina Mladenovic defeated Timea Babos in straight sets 6-4,  6-3.

The two players had met on four previous  occasions prior to this match, with Mladenovic leading their head to head 3-1. However, their only other meeting on clay came last year in Marrakech, where Babos was victorious in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Fast start from the Frenchwoman

In the opening game, Mladenovic was under a bit of pressure at 30-30 and deuce on serve but came through strongly before capitalizing on a string of unforced errors from Babos to get the immediate break.

The pendulum swings the Hungarian’s way

The fifth game of the match was an entertaining battle as Babos hit her way back into the game from 40-0 down with a combination of powerful ground strokes and a nice drop volley to finish. Five successive points from the Hungarian helped her secure the break back courtesy of a double-fault from the Frenchwoman.

With the momentum firmly with the Hungarian at this point, Babos took control of the first set in the seventh game, earning a couple of break point chances. Mladenovic saved the first with an ace, but Babos too strong on the second point as the 26th seed netted the volley to fall 4-3 behind.

The 26th seed hits back

The Frenchwoman reigned in her ball striking and took of some pace on her shots during the next game and was able to get the break straight back, not without the help of a very fortunate net cord to win the definitive point however.

That good fortune and the support from the home crowd took Mladenovic to the first set after hitting an exceptional forehand return off the Hungarian’s serve which she could not retrieve; first set Mladenovic 6-4.

One of the best performances on a singles court from Mladenovic this season so far. Photo: Getty
One of the best performances on a singles court from Mladenovic this season so far. Photo: Getty

Mladenovic’s momentum continues

Both players opened proceedings in the second set with comfortable service holds. The Frenchwoman clearly seemed to have taken confidence from her results in the doubles, considering that she had only won six matches on the WTA singles tour prior to this match. Clean hitting from the 26th seed helped her secure a crucial early break to take a 3-1 lead.

Mladenovic played a couple of loose points in her next service game, but she was not punished by her former doubles partner, as the Hungarian fell 4-1 behind.

In the seventh game, the 26th seed was under pressure again on serve down 0-30. The Frenchwoman was stung into action and found a few very strong, timely forehand winners to take a very commanding 5-2 lead.

Babos forced her opponent to serve it out, which was never going to be an easy task for the Frenchwoman in front of her home crowd after a lack of match wins. The signs looked ominous as she fell down 15-30, but a stunning backhand down the line winner followed up with a delightful drop shot closed out the match in style for the 26th seed. A straight sets win for Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3, she progresses to face Serena Williams in the third round.

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