Mladenovic’s Diary: Double duty a blessing, not a burden

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Mladenovic and Garcia formed an exciting new doubles partnership this season

Yesterday Caroline Garcia and I claimed our first win together in Dubai in doubles against Raquel Atawo and Abigail Spears.

It wasn’t easy on paper because they are good players, they have won a lot of titles and were at the Masters in Singapore as well. They were unseeded, which was quite surprising and just shows how strong the draw is, so we’re really glad to get this win.

Playing singles and doubles at the same tournament is something that I’m used to.

It’s a routine and I’ve always looked at doubles as a perfect practice for my singles.

For example, yesterday I wasn’t scheduled to play singles so I just had a little fitness in the morning and doubles in the evening and that’s great practice for me and I prefer that over going for a random practice with my coach.

Nothing compares to having a competitive match because if you want to work on something, it’s quite easy to do it in practice because you don’t have this adrenaline, this pressure that you have to make it, while in doubles, I’m a competitor, I want to win. And we have also interesting and exciting goals with Caroline, so you push yourself to do better, it’s the way to improve.

Because that serve you have to make on an important point, you can’t replace it by hitting 100 serves in practice. So it’s very good. Of course, I’m used to it now. I’m just having fun and I love it, there’s no doubt about it.

Obviously it’s 2016 and we all know Rio is coming up but playing with Caroline was more of a personal project and we’re not just focused on qualifying for the Olympics together.

There is Rio but there are also so many exciting events, grand slams, super nice tournaments, like here, that you dream of. As professionals, it’s your career, you want to win and bring as many trophies and titles that’s why it’s exciting that in tennis you have every week a tournament and an opportunity to do great.

We’re very excited because there are so many great events like grand slams, which are also like a dream for any player. And of course Rio, it’s a main goal and we realise we’re lucky to be two great players in the same country so if we form a great team we have a chance to bring a medal which is a big thing to do for France.

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Jankovic schools teen Bencic in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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Jelena Jankovic.

Jelena Jankovic joked on court on Tuesday about the age difference between her and the Belinda Bencic, the opponent she had just beaten to make the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m 12 years older than her… almost her whole age,” laughed the Serb after completing a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over the 18-year-old Bencic.

Jankovic has a point. When she made the Dubai final 11 years ago, Bencic was only seven.

But age was not a factor in Tuesday’s affair that saw both players, the veteran and the teenager, trade punches for two hours and 31 minutes before Jankovic came through.

Lots of credit must be given to both – Jankovic for her comeback and Bencic, for the way she went down fighting.

The Swiss, who this week makes her top-10 debut, arrived in Dubai barely 24 hours before her match having played and lost a final in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Against Jankovic, she saved a whopping 14 of 17 break points but it still wasn’t enough.

“It was a really difficult match. Belinda is playing very well, and she’s in form and she’s coming from a final in St. Petersburg. Of course she was coming with confidence here,” said Jankovic, who faces Andrea Petkovic in the second round today.

“I came into this tournament with not a lot of matches. I’m just getting my rhythm and kind of basically starting the season.”

Jankovic had a rough start to 2016, losing in the first round in Brisbane, in the second round in Sydney and Melbourne and falling in both her Fed Cup matches last week.

But against Bencic on Tuesday, she found answers, mixing up her game with the odd drop shot or slice, and taking care of her service games from midway in the second set until the end.

Bencic drew first blood, breaking for 2-1 and it was all she needed to take the first set in 39 minutes.

The Swiss youngster looked on her way to a straight-sets win when she broke for 4-3 in the second set but Jankovic had other ideas, breaking back immediately.

In a marathon 12th game, Bencic saved five set points but faltered on the sixth as Jankovic broke to take the set and force a decider.

The new world No9 saved four break points in the sixth game of the third set to hold for 3-all. She went down 0-40 two games later but again she found her shots and saved all three break points, winning five points in a row to hang on.

Jankovic struck a sensational backhand down the line to get two match points on the Bencic serve and the Swiss fell to the ground trying to retrieve that shot and looked like she was cramping. She got up but netted a backhand to surrender to Jankovic.

“I think the match could have gone either way. It was just one or two points that made the difference,” said Bencic.

“It wasn’t easy being in Saint Petersburg over the weekend and then in Dubai since yesterday but that’s part of being a professional tennis player and it’s something that we all have to cope with.”

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Svitolina on the 'amazing experience' of working with new coaching consultant Henin

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Elina Svitolina is trying to learn not to put too much pressure on herself and she now has former world No1, Justine Henin, in her corner to help her achieve that.

Henin, a seven-time grand slam champion and the most successful player in the history of the Dubai tournament with four titles, has joined Team Svitolina as a consultant after spending time with the young Ukrainian during her offseason training in Abu Dhabi last December.

Svitolina played her first match with Henin in her corner on Tuesday and it proved a positive start for the pair as the 21-year-old claimed a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Slovakian qualifier Jana Cepelova.

Having already made a grand slam quarter-final, at the French Open last year, Svitolina had high expectations of herself at the Australian Open last month but she ended up suffering a shock second round defeat to world No127 Naomi Osaka.


“Australian Open was bad start for me. It was really tough to go through it because I had high expectations,” Svitolina said on Tuesday.








“Probably need to learn from it, to don’t put so much pressure on myself. Just to go out there and enjoy playing, enjoying playing my best. So this is the goal for the moment, because it was too much pressure.”


Svitolina won the Roland Garros junior title in 2010 then got invited to train at the Justine Henin Academy in Belgium, which is where she got acquainted with the Belgian legend.



She is still unclear how often Henin will be travelling with her but is excited about the new partnership, while insisting Iain Hughes remains her main coach.


“I have a coach and consultant for now. It’s great to have Justine in my team, and I worked with her in the offseason for a little bit, and now she is going to join us for some tournaments,” explained Svitolina.


“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the hard work. Of course there have been some small changes, but we are trying to do something new what can refresh my game.”


Asked if the fact Henin is practically the queen of the Dubai tournament is a good omen for her, Svitolina laughed and said: “She not only won four times here, she has some amazing results in other tournaments and the grand slams. So it’s amazing to have her experience and have her in my box and just being around.”


Svitolina faces Garbine Muguruza on Wednesday in the second round for a place in the Dubai quarter-finals.



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