June 3, 2017 / 4:30 PM / 2 months ago

French women thrive under home slam pressure

3 Min Read

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - 30/5/17 France's Caroline Garcia celebrates winning her first round match against Japan's Nao Hibino Reuters / Benoit Tessier/ Files

PARIS (Reuters) - Home advantage played fully as Caroline Garcia rode the Mexican waves on Court One, breaking the resilience of Taiwan's Hsoeh Su-Wei to join Kristina Mladenovic and Alize Cornet in the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday.

It will be the first time since 1994 - and only the third since tennis turned professional in 1968 -- that three Frenchwomen will play the last 16 at Roland Garros, with the extra guarantee that one will be in the quarter-finals as Cornet will take on Garcia.

In 1994, Mary Pierce reached the final after knocking out Steffi Graf in the last four, eventually losing to Arantxa Sanchez.

After 'Kiki' Mladenovic fed off the Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd to down Shelby Rogers in an epic three-setter on Friday, Garcia was pumped up by the crowd on Court One who chanted, screamed or yelled her nickname 'Caro' throughout in a Fed Cup atmosphere.

Garcia prevailed 6-4 4-6 9-7 after the unpredictable Hsieh, whose sliced shots unsettled the local favourite, had served for the match at 5-4.

Four of the six longest matches in the women's draw involved a French player -- Cornet, Garcia and Mladenovic twice -- showing that when pushed to the limit, the home support can be key.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 2, 2017 France's Kristina Mladenovic celebrates after winning her third round match against USA's Shelby Rogers Reuters / Benoit Tessier

Expectations have been so high on players to succeed to Mary Pierce, the 2000 champion, that many of them, most notably Amelie Mauresmo, crumbled under pressure at Roland Garros.

Garcia was one of them. A 17-year-old hot prospect in 2011, she was leading Maria Sharapova 6-3 4-1 when she weakened, losing 11 games in a row, and the second-round match.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 3, 2017 France's Alize Cornet celebrates winning her third round match against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska Reuters / Benoit Tessier

This year, however, she and the others have appeared to thrive.

"I have experienced a lot of things at the French Open and this is helping me," said Garcia.

"At the beginning of the match today I was a bit stressed but then I just thought about my game. If we play on Chatrier with Alize, I'm ready. If you want to win a grand slam, you have to be able to play on the big courts."

Whether Garcia will be supported by the crowd against Cornet is another matter after she said she would snub a Fed Cup call-up earlier this season, triggering the anger of her team mates.

"I think that the relationship is not very good," said Cornet after what she called an 'unexpected' 6-2 6-1 third-round win against ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ralph Boulton

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