Dubai: Home is where the heart is, singer Elvis Presley echoed in his 1962 Rock hit. But for multiple grand slam champion Kristina Mladenovic, these words are full of meaning and truth as she uses her “home in Dubai” to make a tennis comeback.
A one-time world No.10 (June 2019), the 27-year-old peaked at No. 1 in the doubles rankings on the WTA following a string of successes. She has two Grand Slam quarter final appearances (2015 US Open and the 2017 French Open), but among her most cherished moments have been her successes in the doubles.
Mladenovic won the 2013 Wimbledon and the 2014 Australian Open mixed doubles with Canadian Daniel Nestor, 2016 French Open women’s doubles with fellow Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, 2018 Australian Open and back-to-back French Opens in 2019, 2020 and this year’s Australian Open women’s doubles crowns with long-time partner Timea Babos.
And now, chasing a brand new season in 2021, Mladenovic sees the promise that her Dubai home holds for her as she aspires towards bigger goals.
“Dubai is my home,” she told Gulf News after wading through the opening round with a 6-2, 7-5 win over qualifier Magdalena Frech at the 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, on Tuesday.
“This is by far the best place for me and my tennis. This has everything and I feel at ease to go about doing my thing without getting disturbed or bothered. I had to make a choice between being here and France during those crucial pandemic months. And even though I chose to be with my family my heart was always in Dubai as I waited for the day when I could get back here,” she added.
Mladenovic lost her Round-of-16 match against Karolina Pliskova at the Dubai Tennis Open in February after which she travelled for the Qatar Open and then on the Lyon Open in France. “And then the world shut down and I had to stay back in France. As a professional, those were among the toughest moments of my career where I couldn’t even step out and practice to just keep fit. As athletes our bodies are made to train and play under various conditions all over the world. But here we had a situation wherein we couldn’t even go outside,” she said.
When the WTA finally resumed activities in early August, Mladenovic played at the Palermo Open in Italy, after which she travelled to North America for the US Open. She turned back and successfully defended her women’s doubles with Babos at the French Open while defeating Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi in the final.
“After that, it has been Dubai all the way for me. This is my home and I am simply happy to be doing things that I would normally do,” she smiled.
As the top seed here last year, Mladenovic reached the semi-finals of the women’s singles at this tournament and this year too, she has set her goals high. “But first I need to find my rhythm. This year has been difficult for everyone, more so for professional athletes. I have been able to play just a handful of tournaments, and this time in Dubai will help a long way in preparing for the season ahead,” Mladenovic said.
“Last year’s results give me a lot of motivation. I am willing to put in the hard work now and be all geared up for 2021,” she added.