We warned you we’d have lots of content from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix even after the event ended — today and tomorrow, we’ll be bringing you the best of an extensive sit down with Kristina Mladenovic and Carolina Garcia. Since we’re talking about the Stuttgart doubles champions, it’s only fair we’d be delivering you a double-feature in two parts. After beating current World No. 1 Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis in the final, the pair sat down with the press for a lengthy chat on their aspirations, development as a doubles team, friendships on court but also their frustration with the press after Fed Cup and the double-edged sword that is social media.
When Kristina Mladenovic and Carolina Garcia announced they’d join forces for the year 2016, eyes and ears perked up. The two young Frenchwomen put successful partnerships with Timea Babos (Mladenovic) and Katerina Srebotnik (Garcia) on hold in order to focus on Rio 2016 — and their gamble almost immediately paid off when they reached two finals in Sydney in January and Dubai in February.
After an early loss in Miami, the two 21-year-olds rebounded quickly on the doubles court and went unbeaten throughout April — winning their first two titles together in Charleston and Stuttgart and clinching the decisive doubles rubber in Trezalé to secure France a spot in the Fed Cup Final.
“We are glad to have the bikes! That was the most important of the week,” quipped a cheery Garcia at the beginning of the conversation — as Mladenovic quickly added, “When you look at it from close, it looks like an amazing bike, and there’s a beautiful (Porsche) logo on it!”
Despite early singles exits at the hands of Andrea Petkovic and Monica Niculescu, both women enjoyed their time in Stuttgart and Garcia has already vowed to come back not just next year — but as long as she’s playing.
“It’s just when you see the Porsche every single day and you’re just like — you want a challenge and a motivation to work hard every single day and get it one year. I think it’s great to have this kind of challenge,” the World No. 51 said. “It’s a great tournament and it’s my second year — I’m very happy to be back and I will come back every single year until the end of my life!”
The World No. 27, unlike her partner, already has her driver’s license but promised she’ll push Garcia to finally get hers.
“I have mine, so that’s fine — this week, I going to push her to go to her driving lessons and then [there’s] no excuse not to win the car,” Mladenovic laughed.
“I’m a very good driver. No, honestly, we did a very good score [in the Porsche driving challenge]. I was driving very fast between the cones and then just messed up the parking, but like she (Garcia) put a lot of pressure [on me] but that’s not an excuse — second, I never drove a Porsche before and the No. 1 [time] was Angie that made the best course.”
Leaving actual driving out of it, several factors drove the promising Frenchwomen to pair up for the 2016 season, and all eyes will be on them later this spring when the attention of the tennis world shifts to the terre battue in Paris — to Roland Garros.
“I mean, we are aware that when we decided to team up that we knew that there was going to be some expectation on us from the French crowd [and] the public support but that’s something we were looking for,” Mladenovic said. “It’s going to be amazing to team up because before previously we would have both great result — like me with one of my best friends from Hungary [Babos] and her with a Slovenian player [Srebotnik] — [but] it was sometimes our French crowd wouldn’t come to support because we are split.
“Now, together it makes it like a bit more interesting for the people — this is not something that puts pressure on us and I think the results proved it so far…We take every single week where we commit to a tournament and just enjoy and try our best to end up as winners….Hopefully, we’re also going to have great time at the Olympics and whatever comes next!”
However, Garcia and Mladenovic got a chance to prove their mettle to their home faithful a little earlier than expected when they took the court in the deciding doubles in Trezalé. They managed to come back from a set down to give the French team the win over the Netherlands and guarantee the team a spot in the finals. While the arena was packed and the French team made some recent history — as they hadn’t made a Fed Cup Final in 11 years — the pair and their compatriots were disappointed with how little coverage their achievement got at home.
“That’s the problem we have,” Mladenovic said. “They speak huge when it’s negative and bad.”
“It’s disappointing because on one side, they are saying we are not at the level, and they are killing us when we have bad performances,” Garcia added.
The duo are not the first from the French squad to voice their displeasure at what they’ve perceived, as Pauline Parmentier aired similar thoughts to Tennis Actu earlier this month. Right after the tie in Trezalé, Mladenovic already noticed the sparse coverage in the French newspapers — and was particularly outspoken on her Twitter account.
“On the first page was like football Marseille, whatever random match was first league in football…for example, when we won Charleston, there was not even one line in l’Equipe, because l’Equipe is supposed to be a news journal. At least we would expect that somewhere it’s written then that after 12 years, a French pair won a WTA doubles title and no — what did they write? They wrote like one huge page where they were criticizing [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga and [Richard] Gasquet losing the first round against “grandpas” which were [Daniel] Nestor and [Radek] Stepanek — like, two of the best players in the world in doubles, [and] criticizing them both why the lost first round of Monte Carlo in doubles.
“It’s disappointing, but…they do whatever they want and we know that. We are going to have followers behind us like after posting this message I [received] a lot of message saying ‘It doesn’t matter what they are going to say — we are going to be behind you,’ and I think that the important person [sic] were behind us.”
“When we’re going to win it, then they’re going to talk about us!” Garcia joked.
“It’s funny how after we all posted or after Amelié [Mauresmo] talked to them the next day, we were on the front page a little bit and we had like two pages inside,” Mladenovic continued, in a more earnest tone. “We had press for hours for what? The first thing we wanted to do is to enjoy and celebrate and…but no, we were super tired and straight after the match we had press for hours — for what?”
“They’re all sitting and looking at us and they don’t even have questions and you’re like ‘Maybe I want to do something else?’,” Garcia concluded.
At the end of the day, however, both players recognized that the importance of their achievement for those outside the press room could not be understated.
“I mean, the atmosphere in the arena was packed,” Mladenovic said. “It was full house and we received so many messages after what happened in the media that so many little girls and people were behind their TVs, and were enjoying and screaming and having so much fun like we did.”
For these two rising stars, having fun has certainly been at the forefront of the list of reasons for their success this spring.
This concludes Part 1 of TTI’s sit-down with Carolina Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic — come back tomorrow for the French pair’s take on the ups and downs of social media, friendship in doubles, their improvements and the upcoming clay court season.