Minnen Doing The Right Thing, Winning In Lyon

Greet Minnen (photo: Alexandre Hergott/Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon)

LYON/WASHINGTON, March 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Belgium’s Greet Minnen needed six match points to win her second-round match against No. 8 seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands at the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon in France’s third-largest city on Thursday afternoon. However, on the 14th point during the final game of the match, the 113th-ranked Minnen rallied to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, which was quite remarkable considering how she began against the Dutchwoman. Now, Minnen has earned her first quarterfinal-round plateau of the new season.

“I didn’t start well at the beginning of the match. I made a few too many mistakes and got behind fast,” Minnen said during a virtual interview with reporters conducted in both English and Flemish. “After falling behind 1-4, I tried to step up my game and variate [my shots]. I felt it was working. I lost the set but I knew I was doing the right thing.

“The second and third sets were good level from both of us. The last game [Arantxa] didn’t want to miss on the match points (smiling). I was trying. It was tough. Eventually, after I missed a few, it was like ‘just go for it.’ Last one, I went for it and I’m happy I did.”

The right-handed-hitting Minnen won 67 percent (40 of 60) of her first serves and backed it with a 43-percent (17 of 40) efficiency on her second-service points. She saved nine of 13 break points she faced and converted 7 of 15 against the 79th-ranked Rus. Minnen outpointed her opponent 92-85.

Minnen, who is traveling this week without her coach, Robert Cokan, or her partner, Alison Van Uytvanck, said it was difficult to not see any fans inside Halle Tony Garnier and to be able to feed off their energy or to hear their applause.

“For sure, it’s not easy when you’re alone and you have to figure out everything by yourself and you don’t have anyone cheering for you,” she said.

“We’re kind of used to it, nobody in the stands, nobody clapping or cheering for you. It’s not nice. I hope it will get back to normal very soon.”

Minnen has started her season well as her 7-3 record on hard courts attests. However, Lyon represents a breakthrough for the 23-year-old Belgian from Turnhout, who trains in Antwerp and is now into her first WTA quarterfinal since June 2019. She will face No. 129 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, who took out 47th-ranked No. 3 seed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-1, 6-2, without having to face any break points during their hour-long match.

“It’s very important [to me]. I’ve come close to reaching the quarterfinals but didn’t make it [previously]. I’m glad I could get it done. I hope I can continue to play well here,” said Minnen.


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After winning three rounds of qualifying matches in Dubai at the start of the year to earn a berth in the main draw of the Australian Open, she promptly lost in the first round to No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova. While in Melbourne, Minnen lost in the second round of both the Yarra Valley Classic tune-up and the Philipp Island Trophy epilogue events. Her win over Rus represents the highest-ranked player she has beaten this year.

Last year, Minnen went 13-15 during the pandemic-interrupted season, which included playing four ITF tournaments, in both France and the United States, as well as all three of the Grand Slams and a handful of WTA events. Now, as she approaches breaking into the Top 100, improving her WTA ranking means a lot to her.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last few years,” she said. “It hasn’t happened yet because the coronavirus stopped the tour for half a year. It would mean a lot if I can reach that goal. I would be really happy.”

Looking ahead, Minnen has set some modest but attainable goals for this year that, if she succeeds, might just make her more of a recognizable figure outside of her native Belgium. “For sure, go deep in the WTA tournaments, making a final. In the Grand Slams, I would like to win second, third and fourth rounds,” she suggested. “Making it into the second week would be a big goal for me.”

Mladenovic reaches first WTA quarterfinal since 2019

No. 53 Kristina Mladenovic of France reached her first WTA tour-level quarterfinal since October 2019 with her 6-4, 6-2 win over Russia’s No. 131 Margarita Gasparyan.

Mladenovic won 71 percent (30 of 39) of her first-serve points, faced just two break points, broke Gasparyan four times and outpointed her opponent 64-47.

“This match was a tricky one; she’s a great opponent, capable of playing good tennis,” Mladenovic told Tennis TourTalk. “She can punch her shots very well. I managed really well to get through this one. I started well, but I have to credit her with coming up with some great returns. The key was to get the first set under my belt.”

The victory leveled Mladenovic’s win-loss record at 4-4 and she’ll enter Friday’s quarterfinal riding high on a two-match winning streak. “It’s always a positive thing when you can play and win matches in a row,” she said. “The further you go the more excited it gets. It’s the quarterfinals. It’s exciting because I want to go deeper in the event. I can’t wait to get back on court [Friday].”

Next, she’ll face No. 7 seed Paula Badosa of Spain, ranked 73rd, who beat No 122 Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-4, saving seven of seven break points, after surviving a tough three-setter on Tuesday against No. 188 Harmony Tan of France.

“I knew I had to play my game no matter what, I had to be confident with my serve. Every time I had the ball on my side, I played aggressive,” Badosa told Tennis TourTalk after her second-round win. “I fought for each point.”

Badosa, who improved to 4-2 and has won two straight matches, has reached her first quarterfinal since Istanbul on clay last year.

“The beginning of the tournament, my goal was to feel better, trying to feel my game again and win matches. Making the quarterfinals is always a good result. I want to feel good, keep playing my game, day by day,” Badosa said. “The key today was my serve; I’m feeling quite OK. I’m happy.”

Elsewhere in Lyon: French teenager Clara Burel, ranked 218th, advanced to her first WTA tour-level quarterfinal and will face 46th-ranked No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro after beating No. 96 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 7-5, 2-6, 6-0. Burel broke her opponent eight times during the two-hour match and overcame six breaks of her own serve.

“I just tried to focus a lot more and play really every point and fight for every point. That made a difference between the second set and the third set,” Burel told Tennis TourTalk. “Of course [winning] gives me a lot of confidence for the next tournaments. I certainly hope to win more matches here this week.”

When Burel was told by this reporter that she’s won eight out of 10 matches against other French women, she seemed surprised, but offered this thought: “It’s never easy to play against someone you know well, especially when it’s a French girl. Every time I just try to focus on the person on the other side of the net, and play like I’m playing another girl.”

Great escape artist: Camila Giorgi of Italy, who faces 18-year-old Danish teen sensation Clara Tauson in Friday’s first quarterfinal, made a great escape to win her second-round match against Nina Stojanovic of Serbia, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5), Wednesday evening. During the third set, the 81st-ranked Giorgi trailed 0-2, then went ahead 5-3. Soon, she found herself saving match points down 5-6. Finally, Giorgi prevailed in a third-set tie-break, winning on her own second match point.

“I was very aggressive and I played the tie-breaker the same way,” Giorgi said during a virtual interview after her win. “I played well [when I had to]. I won a tough match without my serve. I know I need to improve it.”

Although Giorgi hit five aces, she also finished with 17 double faults and her serve was broken six times – and, yet, she outscored the 95th-ranked Stojanovic 104-93.

“Tennis is very weird. I lost the first set very easy. I knew I had to adjust something in my mind,” Giorgi admitted to Tennis TourTalk. “I didn’t play my best game but I’m happy with my performance.”

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What they’re saying

Profiled this week in French sports daily L’Equipe, World No. 34 Jannik Sinner is quoted as saying: “I feel lucky to play in the same era as Roger, Rafa and Novak. The French Open match against Nadal was very important for me, as well as training with him in Melbourne. Not just for my career but as a life experience. I will never forget it.”