PARIS Kristina Mladenovic's improved footwork gives her a real chance to become the first Frenchwoman in 17 years to win the singles title at Roland Garros, according to her former coach.
Mladenovic reached the final in two of the major claycourt tournaments this season, in Madrid and Stuttgart, and Georges Goven, who coached her last season and in her early years, believes she would start the French Open as one of the top four favourites.
"In the absence of Serena (Williams), she is among the four favourites," Goven told French sports daily L'Equipe on Sunday.
"Yes, she can win Roland Garros. In those four I would put (Elina) Svitolina, (Simona) Halep, (Caroline) Wozniacki and Kiki (Mladenovic)."
Goven, however, did not rule out defending champion Garbine Muguruza even if the Spaniard has not been in great form lately.
"I would also bet on Muguruza's comeback," he said.
"There is one thing that strikes me (with Mladenovic), it's her quicker footwork, she covers the ground better... she can then make a better use of her monstrous forehand," added Goven.
No Frenchwoman has lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since Mary Pierce in 2000 and several players who could have a shot at the title, including former world number one Amelie Mauresmo, have crumbled under the pressure of playing a grand slam at home.
It was not going to happen with Mladenovic, Goven said.
"She has great self-confidence, she does not doubt," he explained.
"I said a few years ago that she was cocky, that it was part of character. It's natural with her and that's a big strength."
Mladenovic, the 13th seed, starts her campaign with a first-round match against American Jennifer Brady.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)