June 4, 2017 / 4:09 AM / 3 months ago

'Kiki' Mladenovic taking it to another level against Muguruza

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

PARIS (Reuters) - Roland Garros is set for another 'Kiki' day as Kristina Mladenovic's French Open campaign continues with a demanding fourth-round clash against defending champion Garbine Muguruza.

Mladenovic, a finalist in Stuttgart and Madrid, has been bothered by back problems but the crowd spurred her on in what she called a "dramatic" first round and an "epic" third round.

"Emotionally I'm quite high at the moment, but it's something I like. It's something I'm prepared for," the 13th seed said ahead of Sunday's match.

"I have proved many times that this is not something that is bothering me at all."

If head-to-head records are anything to go by, Mladenovic has a slight edge, having won their only encounter, in Marrakech in 2015, but she needed two tiebreaks to come out on top.

Muguruza had a below-par build-up to the tournament but has gained momentum since arriving in Paris, notably passing her first-round test against 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone with flying colours.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 2, 2017 Spain's Garbine Muguruza in action during her third round match against Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva Reuters / Christian Hartmann

"I think it's such a nice head-to-head coming up for everybody. I think for the tournament, for the crowd, for us. It's going to be tough," said Mladenovic.

"She's obviously playing great tennis. Had also tough matches, which shows she's in a great rhythm."

Whether Mladenovic's back will hold up might be the key to the match as she will need her powerful serve to keep the Spanish fourth seed on the back foot.

She almost pulled out of her first match but her condition improved afterwards, although the 24-year-old, who will be playing her first fourth-round match at Roland Garros, said her back is still stiff.

"It's still there. I mean, it's obvious that I have some struggles still, especially with my serve," said Mladenovic.

"But when you go out there, this is something I don't want to think about and just fight with everything I have."

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris

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