French Open: Williams sisters vs. home-crowd faves
PARIS >> A reporter at the French Open wanted to know whether the prospect of playing Serena Williams for the first time worried 26th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic.
"Well, no, I'm not frightened," Mladenovic said. "No, I'm quite happy, I must say."
Mladenovic even referred to Saturday's third-round matchup at Court Philippe Chatrier against the 21-time Grand Slam champion as "a dream," explaining: "I grew up watching Serena play."
The 23-year-old Frenchwoman, who won the girls' title at Roland Garros in 2009, certainly can expect plenty of support in the stands from the locals. But dealing with the No. 1-seeded Williams' game might not be so enjoyable.
Even Mladenovic, excited as she is about the matchup, acknowledged as much.
"She is dominating. She's been dominating every single match in recent years. And it's going to be very complicated," said Mladenovic, who has won only one of six previous third-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments.
"I'll have to make no mistakes if I want to do something against her," Mladenovic added.
The 34-year-old Williams' resume includes three championships at Roland Garros, in 2002, 2013 and last year.
Her older sister Venus, the runner-up in 2002 and seeded ninth this year, also plays a French opponent Saturday, facing 50th-ranked Alize Cornet on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
"I know that I have to play an excellent match," Cornet said, "but ... in Paris, anything can happen."
They've met five times previously, including at the 2007 French Open, and not only is Venus 5-0, but she's also won all 10 sets between the two.
Cornet does know she can beat a Williams, though: She has won three matches in a row (one via retirement) against Serena, including at Wimbledon in 2014.
Here's a look at what else is happening at the French Open on Saturday:
DJOKOVIC: No. 1 Novak Djokovic will not need to beat Rafael Nadal again to finally win a French Open trophy, because the nine-time champion withdrew Friday with an injured left wrist. Djokovic's bid for a career Grand Slam, and fourth major title in a row, continues in the third round against 66th-ranked Aljaz Bedene of Britain. "I'm expecting a tough one," said Djokovic, who beat Bedene in straight sets in the first round of the 2015 Australian Open. Bedene had never won a match at Roland Garros until this week.
FUTURE STARS?: Two up-and-coming players who were runners-up for the boys' title in Paris meet when No. 13 Dominic Thiem of Austria takes on 41st-ranked Alexander Zverev of Germany. Thiem is 22; Zverev is 19 and could become the youngest man into the round of 16 at the French Open since Djokovic a decade ago. The winner will face Marcel Granollers, who advanced when Nadal pulled out of the tournament.
GULBIS: The never-dull Latvian Ernests Gulbis, a 2014 semifinalist who is ranked 80th, takes on No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Gulbis has won four of his past five matches against top-10 opponents at Grand Slam tournaments, while Tsonga has never lost at a major to someone ranked as low as Gulbis.
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