Mladenovic, Babos keen to finish 2020 the way they started

Babos/Mladenovic and Krawietz/Mies inch closer to retaining their Roland-Garros doubles crowns

 - Alex Sharp

Reigning Roland-Garros women’s doubles champions, and current Australian Open winners, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, are accustomed to playing with a target on their backs.  

That's also the case for Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, who lifted the men's doubles trophy on Court Philippe-Chatrier last year.

Both pairings are feeding off their Parisian memories and have booked their semi-final tickets on Tuesday.

As was the case with many players, Babos and Mladenovic's preparation for Paris was far from ideal. They didn’t manage to compete together once after the US hard-court swing last month.

That hasn’t seemed to derail the defending champions though, as they posted a commanding 6-2, 7-5 scoreline over Marta Kostyuk and Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The Hungarian-French duo are always a standout in the draw, considering their imposing major record - Babos has won three Grand Slam doubles titles with Mladenovic, who owns a fourth crown captured alongside Caroline Garcia.

I hope this is the case every tournament. We don’t play a lot, but when we do we go far,” said Babos.

“I think in general we are the ones they want to beat, a few teams like this. In a way it’s pressure, but also privilege. So far we’ve managed to use it to our benefit.”

Limited prep

Babos and Mladenovic, who have surged into the last four by surrendering only one set, shrugged off early exits in the singles to reunite in doubles play. They are undeterred, despite the lack of preparation, comfortable to rely on their connection on court.

“It’s a great result and as defending champions we only have great feelings,” explained Mladenovic.

"Having zero matches on clay wasn’t easy, but we know each other’s game so good. We have so much bottled experience together. That’s a big weapon. Anytime we step on court we can have that confidence from our past results.

“It’s always a fresh air, a fresh start when we go back on court together. We’ve been building on that this week and so far it’s been great.”

Her Hungarian partner echoed that sentiment ahead of their semi-final clash against Czech duo Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.  

“It’s funny because we are basically relying on our Australian Open victory and our usual connection and feelings that we have on court together," added Babos.  “In the extended time off we were speaking the whole time, we are basically family, so that helps a lot. The tennis just clicks after that.”

Mladenovic would cherish winning on home soil to bookend a difficult season.

“There is such little tennis for the rest of the season, we are just trying to make the most of it,” said the home charge.

“It would be an amazing end, hopefully two more matches. The year started beautifully, then no one expected the season ahead. It’s tricky for everyone. If we could finish it the way we started, that would be a huge accomplishment.”

Fond memories

Defending men’s doubles champions Krawietz and Mies are within two matches of glory again, continuing to be inspired by their title run last summer.

The all-German team nullified the threat of No.13 seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-4 with a fine front-running display.

“Yeah it feels very good. We are playing with a lot of confidence and we lost to them in Cincinnati (in August), so that was a big win. We have to stay focused, but we are of course very happy to be in the semis,” mused Krawietz, aware they are competing under increased scrutiny.

 “I think it’s boosting us a lot to be back here. We have a lot of great memories, walking into the locker room, the physio and on the courts.

“Very happy memories, but we know every round is very hard. We had to save three match points the round before, it’s going to be tricky because all eyes are on us. So far we’ve dealt with it well.”

Krawietz and Mies will take on the winners of No.9 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic versus the American pair of Nicholas Monroe and Tommy Paul.

The other semi-final pits US Open champions Bruno Soares and Mate Pavic against Colombian top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.