Mladenovic Diary: Dubai is like home away from home

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Kristina Mladenovic plays for the UAE Royals in the IPTL.

I moved to Dubai last December during the offseason and I’m quite excited about it.

I had been thinking about it for some time. I really love the city. There is just so many things to do, I also have a lot of friends here… For my lifestyle as a tennis player, there are super nice conditions for practicing, always nice weather, nice people…

It’s also a coincidence that I’ve also been playing for the UAE Royals team in the IPTL for the past two years, so I really feel at home here.

I had a couple of days here before the tournament started and it was just great being able to stay at my place in Dubai Marina. The apartment I’m renting there is super nice, I have three bedrooms, all my family is here, I feel like this is a home tournament for me.

I took some time to decide if I wanted to have the Dubai Marina view or the sea view, so front row like where Roger Federer is and the Cayenne Tower etc… But I chose the Marina view. I love that area, Pier 7, The Walk, and now they did this amazing area, The Beach, which has so many restaurants.

When the tournament started, I decided to stay here at the on-site hotel, the Jumeirah Creekside, because it’s otherwise a 20- or 30-minute drive – without traffic – every morning and every night from my apartment to the stadium.

We had a great offseason here. After the IPTL, I stayed here the whole time until Australia then I had everything in a row, Australia, Fed Cup, St. Peterburg…so I couldn’t come back. And now I’m here, it’s exciting.

Obviously living the life of a player, we have a lot of tournaments and are travelling all the time so it’s not like I’m going to be here very often, but I’ll try as much as I can. The only thing that’s going to be difficult is when the summer comes when it’s super hot here.

I thought it would be great to practice, that it would help me prepare for the US swing where the weather is hot and humid, but my friends told me, no, the heat is not the same, it’s another level here.

But I know that Roger did it a few times, coming here in the summer to practice. He told me he did it once or twice. Let’s see, maybe I’ll give it a try. I’ll probably come for a few days after Wimbledon.

World No30 Kristina Mladenovic’s daily diary for Sport360° during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is conducted via conversations with our reporter Reem Abulleil.

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Vandeweghe shocks Pliskova with 7-6, 6-1 win in Dubai first round

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Vandeweghe en route to victory.

Vandeweghe also upset Pliskova in their most recent meeting in the second round at Wimbledon last year, and after a closely-contested opening set earned an early break in the second to set herself on the path to another victory.

“I went out there not banking on because I won at Wimbledon that I’m going to win today,” said Vandeweghe, who earned her first win of the year after recovering from an injury that hampered her preparation for 2016.

“When someone is serving as well and playing as well off of their serve you have to really focus on taking care of your service games.

“That was my main focus. And then in the tiebreaker, I mean, every point matters. So when I had my opportunity, I was going to take it. Then the second set, getting that early break was really key.”

Pliskova said she didn’t have time to get into rallies on what is a very fast surface.

“It’s tough to play against her,” she said. “Obviously my game is a little bit better from the baseline, but there was no chance to show it because there was no rallies. So it was just tough.”

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Andrea Petkovic on her midlife crisis and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page

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Call it an existential crisis, midlife crisis, mid-career crisis… whatever Andrea Petkovic went through at the end of last season is well behind her, the German has confirmed.

Petkovic, who eased past tricky Italian Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-1 in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships first round on Monday, came dangerously close to quitting the sport at the end of last season.

She was struggling to silence the voices in her head that told her there was more to life out there than the game she loved and her 6-0, 6-0 defeat to Carla Suarez Navarro in Zhuhai that bookended her season certainly did not help.

The ever-charismatic Petkovic, who rose to fame not just for her great tennis that saw her land in the top-10 more than once but also for her on-court Petko-dance moves and witty rhetoric in the press room and on social media, was unhappy and felt like she no longer wanted to be on the tour.


Her mother had fallen ill as well and had surgery while the German was playing a tournament in Asia, which compounded her misery.








But Petkovic powered through her feelings and says she realised it was just a “crisis” that was part of growing up and the world No28 is now happy to be back on court.




Her straightforward victory over Giorgi – a player she admittedly “loathes” to play – ever the indication that she is back on track.


“A midlife crisis,” she said laughing on Monday.


“I am over that. I’m definitely over, and I’m so thrilled that I made the decision to keep playing.


“I think now that I look back, I feel – maybe ‘ashamed’ is too harsh of a word, because I’m so happy with my life right now.


“I think maybe that crisis actually made me work harder in the offseason because I really wanted sort of to make up for the lost time.”


Petkovic tried to explain the reasons behind that “crisis” and said she felt she was missing out on perhaps pursuing other interests. The 28-year-old is not your typical athlete. She can chat about Netflix shows, Jack White music and Leo Tolstoy literature with equal passion and one thing she thought she might regret is not going to college.



“I think it’s just a thing of growing up. When you’re 20, 21, 22, you just feel like all the doors are still open. You can still be a surgeon, you can still be a lawyer, you can still be an actress, you can be whatever you wish. Once you get older, I think you realise that certain doors are closing, and there are certain paths in life that you can’t go back to,” she explains.


“One of these things was maybe a normal student life for me or things that I would like to study that I would like to know more about. And I think all these things combined just led to a midlife crisis, but I’m glad I’m over it because I’m very happy with everything I have. I know I’m very blessed. I’m just so grateful that I’m able to lead this life that I’m leading.”


To get over her troubles, Petkovic had conversations with people who have gone through similar periods and read a lot of biographies of people who struggled at an age similar to hers. One unexpected name comes up when she talks about one artist’s life story that helped her through.


“Actually Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, he actually quit playing guitar when he was 28 exactly for a year before he came back and became a huge star, obviously. For me, that was maybe not the thing that I could identify most with but that made me realise most that it was just a crisis, because if you don’t want to be a rock star, what else in life do you want to be?” she said laughing.


“So I figured if he’s going through a crisis, it’s okay for me to go through a crisis as a tennis player.”



Against Giorgi on Monday, Petkovic was calm, assertive, and crushing her backhand. She lost her first three meetings to the Italian, all in 2014, but has now beaten Giorgi in their last two meetings.


Giorgi struggled on serve and could only hold once throughout the 63-minute match.


“I was very happy with the way I played. I usually loathe playing her,” said a smiling Petkovic, who next faces either Belinda Bencic or Jelena Jankovic.


“I have worked on a lot in the offseason and I have been playing really well in the past couple of months in practice. I just wasn’t able to transfer it into the matches.


“I think today was one of the first matches where everything came together, and what I really feel like is I’m getting back to the level that I had in 2011 (when she made three grand slam quarter-finals).”



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