For the first time since 1994 there are two French women in the quarter finals of the French Open as Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic both confirmed their passage to the last eight. With the two former doubles partners in different sides of the draw, many will be hoping for an all French affair in Saturday’s final. And whilst it would undoubtedly be a big match between two talented young players, there is a lot more than just tennis on the line if they should meet.
Mladenovic and Garcia enjoyed great success together as one of the world’s best doubles teams of 2016. Not only did they guide France to the Fed Cup title, they won the French open title a little over a year ago. It was after that said Fed Cup final however where things turned sour.
Following the heart-breaking defeat to the Czech republic in Strasbourg, Garcia said that she will not be taking part in the Fed Cup in 2017. Understandably, the French team were not happy with the decision. Garcia had been their key player in the run to the final and won both her singles rubbers in the final. But the decision to skip the International competition is nothing new and something plenty of players do. That did not stop Mladenovic doing what she likes to do and speak her mind.
She labelled the decision as selfish and accused Garcia of lacking honour and respect. It was not long after Mladenovic spoke out that they parted ways as a doubles team. Garcia told Mladenovic of her intentions to focus on her singles career apparently over the phone, something that angered Mladenovic who labelled it dis-respectful.
Garcia’s decision did not stop her being nominated for the tie against Spain in April, but the 23-year-old withdrew with a back injury and also missed Stuttgart the following week. Mladenovic, Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier took to twitter to express what they felt about this and mocked Garcia with a simultaneous tweet of ‘LOL’. France would go on to win the tie.
It was not long after when Mladenovic took the attack away from Fed Cup and towards the doubles split. In an interview with L’Equipe, Mladenovic took aim at Garcia’s education compared to her own and said her career is controlled by her father. All the while, Garcia said nothing.
There was expected to be a lot of tension between Garcia and Cornet when they met in the fourth round on Monday, and to a degree there was. Garcia had commented before the match “I received a text message but no excuses. She said she was still standing behind her tweets, so I consider that it doesn’t mean anything.”
Garcia got the better of the all French affair 6-2, 6-4 and the two embraced at the net, seemingly showing that everything is ok between them for now.
It is unlikely that the same will happen should Garcia and Mladenovic meet in Saturday’s final. Whilst Cornet did lash out at Garcia’s decision to skip Fed Cup, she did not personally attack her compatriot like Mladenovic.
Mladenovic’s willingness to speak her mind on issues has divided the opinion of tennis fans around the world. Some think she speaks too much for her own good, whilst others find her a breathe of fresh air on tour. However, no matter which side of the fence you sit, there can be no denying that the character assassination of Garcia has at the least been borderline bullying.
There is reason as to why Mladenovic is upset about Garcia skipping Fed Cup, she was a vital part of the team. It is ok for Mladenovic to feel like Garcia should have ended their doubles partnership in a different way, but the issue is that she has taken this to a different level. Bringing Garcia’s education into it and putting her down at every opportunity is not right, especially when Garcia does not hit back with any comments of her own. It is a situation that has clearly hurt Garcia and possibly affected her tennis.
It is a shame because Mladenovic has played wonderful tennis this year and as a result has broke into the world’s top 20. But her treatment of her former doubles partner has not been right and has turned a lot of people against her. Garcia has opted for the silent route, which has ultimately made her look the better of the two in the situation. I will be interesting to see if she every speaks out against her former partner.
It has been an excellent tournament for both players thus far and there is no reason why they can not go any further. Both have the talent to win major titles and reach the very top of the game. But should they meet in the final, and that is a big should, do not expect just your standard Grand Slam final. This will be personal between two former friends and doubles partners.