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Kristina Mladenovic vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich Ricoh Open tennis live: Mladenovic targets quarter-finals in s-Hertogenbosch

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 15 Jun 2017
  • Kristina Mladenovic vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich is live from s-Hertogenbosch around 4.00pm local time on Thursday (3.00pm BST)
  • Sasnovich won their only tour-level clash last year at Wimbledon
Kristina Mladenovic (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Second seed Kristina Mladenovic targets the Ricoh Open quarter-finals on Thursday when she takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in s-Hertogenbosch.

Kristina Mladenovic looks to continue her stellar 2017 season on Thursday in s-Hertogenbosch, with a quarter-final spot on the line against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Mladenovic has been one of the stand-out players of the year and is fresh coming off a quarter-final finish at the French Open last week. A Ricoh Open runner-up last year, Mladenovic is hoping to go one step further in 2017, but in order to do so she has to get past Sasnovich - the dangerous Belarusian who actually defeated her in the first round of Wimbledon 12 months ago. Mladenovic and Sasnovich take to court around 4.00pm local time on Thursday (3.00pm BST).

It’s been a whirlwind season for Mladenovic to date, but can the powerful Frenchwoman keep her momentum going throughout the grass season? The quick transition from clay to grass is always tricky, with players having to immediately adjust to the slippery grass after months and months grinding it out on clay courts across Europe.

With this in mind, Mladenovic wasn’t expecting a flawless performance in her first round Ricoh Open match on Tuesday against Risa Ozaki of Japan. Ozaki served for the first set at 5-4, but Mladenovic stepped up her game and won nine of the last 10 games to register a 7-5 6-1 victory and move into the second round. All things considered, Mladenovic was happy with how she performed in her first grass court outing this year.

“I knew that my first match on grass was going to be difficult and tricky,” Mladenovic said. “We played for many weeks on clay court and this is totally different, so you need to get into the rhythm.
“Today I had an opponent that I didn’t know a lot about, so the first set was very up and down from my side. I’m extremely happy to win this match in two sets.”

Mladenovic has fond memories of s-Hertogenbosch - she made her first grass court final at the Ricoh Open last year, beating close friend and top seed Belinda Bencic in the semi-finals before falling in two tight sets to CoCo Vandeweghe, who is one of the more explosive players on tour, especially on grass. Mladenovic’s powerful and flat game lends itself nicely to grass, and she will be expecting some big results on the surface over the next month after transforming into one of the form players on tour this season.

Mladenovic has made a gigantic surge up the rankings over the first six months of the season, with a maiden WTA title triumph in St. Petersburg, runner-up finishes at Acapulco, Stuttgart and Madrid, a semi-final run at Indian Wells and a quarter-final at Roland Garros propelling her from outside the top 50 to a career-high mark of No. 13 - and No. 6 in the Porsche Race to Singapore for the season-ending WTA Finals.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)
But Mladenovic’s immediate focus is on Aliaksandra Sasnovich - the player who eliminated her from Wimbledon in the first round last year.

Sasnovich at the moment is best known for her ability to rise to the occasion in Fed Cup matches, with the 23-year-old playing some magical tennis during the competition so far in her young career. Without two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka, Sasnovich was given the responsibility of leading her country into Fed Cup battle this season, and she has been quite brilliant, beating the Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens and Michaella Krajicek in the quarter-finals in February before conquering Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky and Viktorija Golubic to send Belarus into their first ever Fed Cup final.

Every so often you get players who play above their average tour-level form when representing their country, and so far Sasnovich fits that bill to a tee. Sasnovich made the Korea Open final in 2015, finishing runner-up to Irina-Camelia Begu, but that’s the only time she’s made a final on tour, with her best result last year being a quarter-final run in Tokyo from qualifying - the one and only time she won back-to-back main draw matches in 2016.

Sasnovich has been playing better in 2017 however, reaching the semi-finals of Biel and the quarter-finals of Budapest, along with qualifying for the Australian Open and Miami. She didn’t have a great clay season, losing in qualifying at Prague, Madrid and Rome, but she won a match at the French Open - another victory over Golubic - before going down to Shuai Zhang. Sasnovich has made a winning start to her grass season, coming through the challenge of Anna Kalinskaya 6-3 6-4 to set up this second round clash with Mladenovic.

As mentioned, Sasnovich will be confident of emerging triumphant after defeating Mladenovic in straight sets in the first round of Wimbledon last year. Her aggressive game, like Mladenovic’s, is well-suited to grass, and if she finds her range and can keep down her unforced errors, she has the potential to be a formidable force on the surface. But Mladenovic is a different player this season, producing top 10 tennis, and if she plays like she has throughout 2017, she should be too strong.

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Kristina Mladenovic vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich Ricoh Open tennis live: Mladenovic targets quarter-finals in s-Hertogenbosch

Second seed Kristina Mladenovic targets the Ricoh Open quarter-finals on Thursday when she takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in s-Hertogenbosch.

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