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Dealing with boisterous partisan fans goes hand-in-hand with playing tennis, summed up home favourite Kristina Mladenovic as she responded to Garbine Muguruza’s complaint that the French Open spectators had crossed a line on Sunday. (Men’s Singles Results | Women’s Singles Results)
The Spaniard broke down in tears after her Roland Garros title defence ended in a fourth round 6-1 3-6 6-3 defeat by Mladenovic.
Muguruza and her coach accused the crowd on Suzanne Lenglen Court of being disrespectful. “To the French crowd, pathetic, no class!” Sam Sumyk, the French coach of Muguruza, said on Twitter.
Mladenovic, who lost the Stuttgart final against German Laura Siegemund in what she described as “extremely tough” conditions, said the support of the home crowd can be a double-edged sword.
“They are excited, the atmosphere was just amazing, it’s not easy to handle for the both of us. It’s a lot of pressure, even for me,” the 24-year-old told a news conference.
“It’s not easy to control the nerves and the pressure.”
French players have often crumbled under the pressure of playing a grand slam at home but Mladenovic seems to feed off the crowd.
“It’s part of the sport, it’s amazing to play on such a great stage,” she said.
“At the end of the day, sport is a show.”
Speaking about her final in Stuttgart, she explained: “I thought the crowd was extremely tough there and I did not make any comment because it’s sport.
“I don’t know if I have a different culture of sport. You know, team sports and everything,” added Mladenovic, who is of Serbian descent.
Triple champion Mats Wilander said it was tougher for women to deal with the pressure, because their matches are shorter.
“It’s a really tough situation,” he told Reuters.
For Wilander it’s not a question of whether the crowd crossed a line, it’s a question of how the players deal with intensity.
The Swede speaks with authority. He lost to Frenchman Yannick Noah at Roland Garros in 1983, and beat Frenchman Henri Leconte in 1988.
“But for men, best-of-five, you have time to get over it, time to block it out. But best of three? Matches finish quicker, it can really catch you by surprise,” he said.
Mladenovic’s quarter-final opponent, Swiss Timea Bascinszky is aware of the challenge ahead.
“I know that the crowd will not be with me, and it’s okay,” she said after beating Venus Williams on Sunday.
“Maybe so many Swiss people bought tickets. I mean, Stan (Wawrinka) is doing amazing at the French. Me, my third time in a row in the quarters. Maybe it’s going to be a lot of Swiss flags. You never know.”