French No.1 Kristina Mladenovic showed marked improvement after her titantic first round win to defeat former finalist Sara Errani, 6-2, 6-3, to reach the third round at Roland Garros.
“I think I played a great match,” she said in her post-match press conference. “It’s not yet how I would like it to be, especially on my backhand and some movements I thought I could be faster. I was not serving my first usual serve and second serve could be better.
“But I think I’m satisfied it was enough for today.”
Mladenovic discussed “blocking” her back in practice ahead of the tournament, but assured reporters her condition was improving after battling past an inspired Jennifer Brady on Monday.
“I don’t feel like it’s 100% yet. I think I’m still struggling on my serve. But it’s definitely way better than the first round. I cannot compare; I was not struggling with those sharp pain I had in the first round where honestly I couldn’t serve at all.
“Less struggles today. Less double faults. Less pain, not sharp pain, but my back does still feel stiff.”
The 24-year-old made good on that promise against Errani, easing past the Italian qualifier in 78 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“I knew how she wanted to play against me, playing deep, spin balls on my backhand, trying to make me move, playing angles. It’s not easy to handle her topspin, and she has great touch.”
Errani narrowly missed out making the main draw, but earned her spot in emphatic fashion by winning her three qualifying matches with the loss of just seven games.
“She’s such a tough player no matter what, especially on clay, when she’s coming back here in Roland Garros. She was a former finalist. She was impressive from the beginning of the tournament. She already won a couple matches, so for sure her confidence was back. I felt I really had to work every single point.”
The pair exchanged early breaks before Mladenovic held in a long seventh game and broke once more to take the opening set.
Undaunted, Errani took eight of the first 10 points to start the second set and grab the opening break; a point from a double-break deficit, Mladenovic held on to win six of the next seven games, serving out the win on her fourth match point.
“I’m very happy the way I played. Tactically I think I was almost perfect. Then in the commitment, I think I could have done things a little bit better, but that’s okay, given the outcome today. Still, it was definitely not an easy match for me.”
In all, it was a clean performance from the No.13 seed, hitting 31 winners to 24 unforced errors. She also managed to pump up the volume behind her first serve, averaging nearly 10 miles per hour compared to her match against Brady.
Standing between Mladenovic and a spot in the second week is 2016 quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, who dispatched Cagla Buyukakcay in straight sets earlier in the day.
“It’s going to be a difficult match. She plays really well, and she reached quarterfinals here last year, so she has the right feelings here at the French Open. Her game is good for clay. She has good weapons. Her serves, her kick, her forehand, that makes you to move a lot.
“That’s similar to my game in a certain way, in some aspects, which means that I’ll have to recover well. I’ll have to play my best game, my best tennis. She will be dangerous on the court.”