Following a rather dismal 2016 besides a great showing in her doubles, Kristina Mladenovic started 2017 on a high note winning the Hopman Cup with fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet. That success, however, did not reflect in the WTA tour as she went by without a win in the first two tournaments which saw her rankings slide down to 51.
It quickly changed however as she picked up her first title in St Petersburg. Mladenovic hit the ground running coming up with huge victories and going deep in tournaments and eventually broke the top 20 in the middle of March. By May, she had reached four finals proving her capabilities and reached a career high ranking of 12 in the process, cementing her spot as French number one.
Mladenovic recorded a win/loss of 37/15 and already passed her total wins for the whole of 2016. This is her best mid season record to date.
Nothing is sweeter than clinching your first WTA title and Mladenovic, who had prior to this been in three finals in her career, finally won on her fourth try in the indoor courts at St Petersburg. She came to the tournament with no match wins under her belt but went on to knock out the likes of Venus Williams and defending champion Roberta Vinci before defeating Yulia Putintseva in a high-quality final.
The Frenchwoman’s season was just beginning. The following month in Acapulco, Mladenovic reached yet another final but lost out to Lesia Tsurenko. It was becoming a monthly thing and in one of the biggest tournaments in Indian Wells she went all the way to the semifinals for the first time in her career. It was on clay where she found most success though, making back to back finals in Stuttgart and Madrid. And on the biggest stage of them all in her home slam, Mladenovic reached the quarterfinals, also a first in her career.
The Australian swing was a forgettable one for Mladenovic. Apart from success in the Hopman Cup, she could string any win and was booted out in the first round at the Australian Open.
In the thrilling Stuttgart finals, with the crowd firmly behind their countrywoman Laura Siegemund, the Frenchwoman was 4-1 up in the final set tie-break. However, she could not hang on to her lead and eventually lost a close match on her serve.
With grass being one of her strong suits, Mladenovic chose to play all three weeks before Wimbledon. She made two quarterfinals but had a disappointing showing at Wimbledon losing to another good grass courter in Alison Riske in the second round despite being a set and a break up.
Besides her match to win the title in St Petersburg, Mladenovic also played three top five players and beat all of them. The first of which was against Karolina Pliskova in Dubai. Both were involved in the epic match in the Fed Cup finals which saw the Frenchwoman lose 14-16 in the final set. This time Mladenovic was able to turn the tables and was impressive in her straight sets win.
The next was against Simona Halep at Indian Wells. The Frenchwoman had beaten the Romanian before and this time was able to upset the 2015 champion in another commanding win. She also defeated Angelique Kerber for the first time on the German’s own turf in Stuttgart.
In fact her whole run to the finals in Stuttgart was one of her best results of the year seeing all the top players she beat along the way including Maria Sharapova, most for the first time as well. Mladenovic topped that result when she reached the finals of a Premier mandatory event at Madrid, also a first for her.
Her first WTA match of the year falls under one of her worst results. She looked completely lost on the court and was swept aside by the qualifier Elise Mertens in quick fashion. In Dubai, after a remarkable victory over the then world number three Pliskova, she fell short in her match against Qiang Wang and was bundled out in straight sets.
Early losses in Miami and Rome were also among the disappointing results for the Frenchwoman. And in the Fed Cup quarterfinals, the 2016 finalists were unable to replicate their success as Mladenovic lost a crucial rubber to Timea Bacsinszky despite being in fine form and France crashed out.
It has been a much improved season from the Frenchwoman. Winning her first title seems to have given her much confidence and the consistency shows. Of 15 tournaments entered, she has at least made quarterfinals or better in eight of those. Also, four finals, with three of them being at least a Premier event is a decent achievement for the French number one. Currently ranked 13, Mladenovic is also 9th in the race to Singapore leaderboard. It will be interesting to see if the Frenchwoman can keep up her consistency and momentum and continue to improve her rankings in the months to come.