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May 27, 2014

Kristina Mladenovic


7‑5, 3‑6, 6‑1

THE MODERATOR:  Questions in English, please.

Q.  Congratulations for your victory here.  In the court you were mentally stronger than Na Li the third set.  What is your opinion in general?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Thank you, first of all.
Well, yes, I try ‑‑I had to actually against Li Na to be really strong mentally and because she's such a tough player and, you know, an amazing player, she's a Grand Slam champion.¬† I knew it wouldn't be easy at all.
But I just tried to believe in myself and working really hard every day just to achieve and believe where she is and try one day to be up there.
Yeah, well, I had to be really calm and take my chances and being mentally strong.

Q.  Any more expectations or sometimes you beat a great player and next round is normal or this is going to be a turning point?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Yeah, well, you know, it's never normal when you beat such a big name, big player.
It's definitely a huge thing for me today here, first round of Grand Slam at home and Roland Garros is not a normal‑seeded player, you know.¬† It's Li Na.¬† So I need some time to realize that and to enjoy that.
But definitely you don't beat Li Na and you're not thinking about losing the next round.  It will be a shame.  So, yeah, definitely.  I'm going to enjoy this and I will have a lot of expectation about myself for next round.

Q.  What was the atmosphere like for you on the court today with the crowd and everything?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Amazing.  Well, you know, for us French players it can be really tough sometimes to play in front of our crowd.  But, you know, once you get at that stage, when it's really close result against a really good player and if you have great attitude, good game and they enjoy it, it can be really good for us to have the crowd with us.
So, yeah, it helped me a lot today.  I use it.  I use it with me.
Yeah, I really tried to apply my game and level up also the atmosphere, because I could feel it could make the difference.
So, yeah, it was such a nice feeling to have such a big win here in front of my crowd.

Q.  You were pretty emotional after the match.  What does the victory mean to you personally and for your career?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Yes, this is really big, like I said.  You don't beat Li Na every day.
I mean, I respect her career and the person she is.  I like her a lot.  Yeah, I just admire her.  She's example for obviously a Grand Slam champion.
It means really a lot, especially in Grand Slam.¬† Yeah, it just prove me that I can ‑‑ you know, I always believe in myself, but it prove that I'm here and working hard improving.
Yeah, well, just give me some more strength to continue.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions in French.

Q.  You have said this in English, I think, but could you give us more details.  Tell us why this victory was even more important now after the beginning of the season.  What does it mean to beat Na Li today?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Well, for me, but also for all the other players, you know, defeating Na Li, I don't know which example you could take for men, but, you know, for me, she's No. 2.  She's managed to win several titles. I respect her enormously as a player, and it's a big win for me.
In addition to this, look at the season, I went down in the rankings.  On paper I'm no longer in the top 100.  I was in the top 50 by the middle of last year, but it's only a figure.
And then, you know, due to circumstances and points you don't fight for, etcetera, you know how rankings work.  Yet I've always believed in me.  I believed in me in the past, I still believe in me today.  And that's how I can put up such a good fight and have a good level of game and play.
Even this year, you know, Halep, the GDF Suez, Simona, she's No. 4 in the world nowadays, and I knew that I was made of this stuff.  I'm a tennis player.  I know that.  I'm very ambitious.  I have never hidden that.  It really is good to have such a win.

Q.  In your career, where would you say this victory is?  Would you say it's one of the best matches you've ever played or not?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  From the tennis point of view, I would say frankly I have played better during other matches, but, you know, it's a jigsaw puzzle.  It's a moment.  It's attitudes.  It's the way you manage things.
This is what I did well today.  Those are the main points that counted today.
But by far it's the best victory given how good this player is.  It's a Grand Slam.  It's Roland Garros.  So, yes, for sure.

Q.  You were talking about points and rankings.  Now, how come?  There is such a big gap between your ranking and the way you play, your level.
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Well, there is one first thing that many of you are not perhaps aware of is that now they have, how can I say this, they have changed the system of points.  Today you have fewer points.  For example, if you have the same results as last year's, you would be given fewer points.
So this, to start with, is a big change.  With the same level of performance, you have fewer points.  So this is changed, apart from the winners.  The winners is something different.  So that's the first glitch, if I can say.
And then, you know, it's also the opponents, the good points.  Some matches when I played well, but unfortunately I didn't necessarily win.  And I had good results on big tournaments, and it goes quickly.  Both ways, the rankings go quickly upwards and downwards.  It's not something I'm worried about.
What I try and focus on, as you said, is my tennis, how well I can play to be fit and to practice every day so that my average game and level of play increases both in terms of rankings and on paper.
But what's on paper doesn't make any difference.

Q.  You are now working with Yannick Hesse.  This is a new cooperation.  Will he become your coach?  What's going to happen?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  That's true.  It's been several months or weeks that I started with Yannick, and it's a change for me.  You know, Yannick is more than a coach.  He is someone who's known me since my early days.
With my best friend Amandine, she's Yannick's daughter, I started playing with her playing tennis.  He saw us growing up.  He's almost like a second father for me.  Whenever we had tournaments for young girls at the age of 14, 16, 18, he was there.  We have a special relationship, he and I.
And today, you know, I was a bit fed up with the coaches I could find on the tour.  I tested them.  Last year by midyear when I was top 50, when I wanted to invest in a coach, I thought, I want to find someone so I can be in the top 20.  I was very ambitious.  Unfortunately I had some mishaps or not a good match between the coach and myself.  By match I mean a good fit.
Therefore, I thought I'm going to focus more on simpler things, more family type of things, entourage, the people surrounding me.  A simple structure.
And with Yannick, we practice, he's a coach in the Lagardére Paris Racing Club, and when I'm at home, I practice with him and with his girl, Amandine.
But today he doesn't travel, and it's something I like, because I saw with years going by that I was quite independent.

Q.  You started saying we have started working together a few weeks ago, a few months ago, but it was made public only 10 days ago, so when did it really start?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  At the end of the American tour.

Q.  Back to this match.  You have managed to save two set points during the first set.  Would it have been tougher had you lost the first set?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  That's true.  We can debrief the whole match if you want to, but that's true.  It's more complicated when you lose the first set, because there is still two sets to win.  That's when it's much more complex.
Yes, frankly, that's the turnaround point for the match.  I knew she would come back into the match.  I think there was a break, and this is when I was not careful enough during the beginning of the second set, this is when she managed to stand up and she was serving well.  It was difficult for me to return all of her serves.
It makes a difference, one break, 6 to 3, and this when I thought, Fight harder, fight harder to refocus on all the aspects of the game, to give her no occasion, because she would seize all of these opportunities.  I knew that.

Q.  According to you, what are the most important elements thanks to which you could defeat Li Na or you managed to do this today?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  I was ready with my game plan.  I knew exactly what I had to do, what she didn't like to try and hurt her so that she would make unforced errors on the forehand.
So this is what I did, I deployed my game plan really well.  I put more strength into my shots to bother her.  Also, she plays really fast.  If you give her a chance, a chance to take control of the game, it will go so quickly.
You know, I have played many players, but look at her backhand, cross‑backhand along the lines, she's an atomic bomb.
So my objective today was to grasp her at the throat immediately.  Big serve.  And also interesting returns I made, winning returns sometimes.  Sometimes I was down a little.  I couldn't return her shots.  It was a bit more complicated then.
But today these were the first strikes that were important, to hold, good serve, and return well.
I have not seen the statistics, but there was a break during the second set and the first set, as well, I think.  I think I lost my serve once or perhaps twice, which is good against these good return players.

Q.  During the match everybody saw that you were very dynamic, you had lots of confidence, and 30 minutes ago during Li Na's press conference she said she didn't really feel good during the match with you.  She didn't really know what was happening.  In her heart, she was saying, I think it was a bit odd for her.  Did you feel this, as well, during the match?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Honestly I admire this player, as I said, very much, because she's irreproachable.  Look at her attitude.  You know, this is what she might be afraid of when you look at her.  She might perhaps go down a little, but she'll never give up.  It was not a bad day for her.  I think she tried to do her best.  But I managed to produce what would really bother her.  I knew that.
And the crowd, the audience was with me.  It helped me.  But also when I was given a wildcard in 2010 we played a tough match in two sets, and she knows me, of course.  It was not an easy round, first round for her, and I'm French at home.  So I think it helped a great deal.
Then she felt I was very much present on the court, and I was not going to miss this one.  So it was going to get tougher and tougher.  Look at her strokes, her game.  It was, as usual, that is what I expected from her is what she played.  So I think it was a good match.

Q.  How did you manage to get ready for this tournament in terms of food and diet?  What are your best restaurants in Paris, if you have any?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC:  Well, nothing special, you see.  I did what I usually do.  That is, I eat normally.  My diet is normal.  What else can I say?  This morning I had a good breakfast:  Eggs, ham, some cereals, orange drink.
Second question?  Restaurants?  I'm lucky, I'm at home here, so my best restaurant is mum's meals.

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