When the Roland Garros clock strikes ‘Kiki-time’ on Tuesday, Kristina Mladenovic will have a devastating weapon in her armoury for her quarter-final with Timea Bacsinszky – a febrile French crowd powerful enough to reduce an opponent to tears.
Already in this tournament defending champion Garbine Muguruza was left sobbing in the post-match media room at the partisan nature of the home fans roaring Mladenovic on. The Spaniard had wanted a little more respect.
Few who witnessed Swiss Martina Hingis dissolve into tears after her 1999 final defeat by Steffi Graf could forget the force of emotion coming from the Philippe Chatrier stands.
Derisive hoots, rhythmic chants, claps, jeers and whistles… the Parisians are masters at making, or breaking, a favoured player.
“It knocked me off my feet when I lost in the ’83 final to Yannick Noah,” three-times champion Mats Wilander told Reuters.
“It is a rough situation. My approach against Noah had been ‘I am better than you. You have no weapons to hurt me with. If you come to the net I will pass you. If you don’t come in, I will’.
“But I wasn’t ready for his tactics and I wasn’t ready for the crowd. He was inviting them to go nuts, and they didn’t need inviting twice.”
Wilander had burst onto the scene in 1982 when he won the title as a 17-year-old, and the locals had feted him.
“I thought, ‘Last year you told me you loved me… in the semi-finals you loved me… and now you hate me?”
For the fans, it is quite simple.
“I think we get to cheer the player we want to cheer. It’s just sports,” 24-year-old student Martine told Reuters in the walkway between courts at Roland Garros.
“That is the little power that we have, why not use it? As far as I know, it’s not forbidden!”
Antoine, a 56-year-old business owner loves being part of the story, not just an observer. “I love to come and watch the French players here, especially because of the atmosphere and I’m glad that I can bring my contribution.
“Fans are part of the game. I was at the Mladenovic v Muguruza match yesterday and I really don’t think we were disrespectful.”