07/02/2020 – Australian Open Champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic join the WTA Insider Podcast and open up about the ups and downs of their unbreakable bond.
By Courtney Nguyen – WTA Insider
2020 Australian Open doubles champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic can’t stop winning. The duo have now extended their winning-streak to 11 matches after capping off their 2019 season by defending their title at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
After disappointing first-round exits in singles in Melbourne, Babos and Mladenovic played a flawless doubles tournament, which they finished with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 win over top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova. Seeded No.2, Babos and Mladenovic became the first team to win the Australian Open title without dropping a set since 2004.
Babos and Mladenovic joined the WTA Insider Podcast after their title run to reflect on how the friendship that forms the foundation of their partnership was forged.
WTA Insider: What clicked so well for you in Melbourne?
Tímea: What a two weeks we had here. We had a lot of downs at the beginning. Let’s be honest, we didn’t do the best in singles, how we wished for. And we had a lot of issues and problems and, you know, just life. And then we came back together stronger than ever, I guess. Because really, it doesn’t happen often to win a title, win a Grand Slam and to do it in such a way without dropping a set. So I’m just very, very proud of us because it was very tough. And we went out there every single day fighting and just trying to do our best. And the way we handled these weeks and the way we handled this final today is just amazing. I’m really speechless because, you know, it’s a final. It’s never easy to give your best, to do your best, and we really did. We had answers for everything. The way we helped each other and carry each other in good or bad, it’s what makes us very special. I’m just very, very happy with this.
WTA Insider: After the disappointment in singles, was tennis the medicine for how you were feeling? How did you pull out of the disappointment to take the court and play with such joy?
Kristina: You used one word: medicine. And I have to say, she’s my medicine on the tour, in a way. I came out from the end of the season very strong. An amazing feeling on the court with my level, an amazing offseason where I worked really well and feeling good. And then you come here and you have high expectations. I wanted to surf on the amazing vibe and keep it up and keep going. Then you have the disappointment in singles and then you’re a little bit on the side, you know? It’s a tough beginning of the season. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now in doubles if she wasn’t by my side just because of who she is. Of course, she’s an amazing tennis player, doubles player. But I’m just saying that I would not have this motivation to go back on the court – with respect to all the other nice girls on tour – but it wouldn’t feel the same. I wouldn’t be pumped to stay here and put the work in day in and day out to push to be a better tennis player and person, matching with her, and following our dreams. We have common dreams in this doubles career as well and it makes it just amazing really, because we have so much understanding. We’re so much the same. Just the fact that we have that connection, that we’re both competitors, we are both focused on our singles career. I think there’s not another girl on tour that would accept that we don’t do one single practice together and we just kind of show up, do some volleys, warm up together and then go on court and win those beautiful trophies. This makes it so special because we are on the same page trying to go higher and higher in singles, and what we are managing to do on a double court together is just special. I’m also speechless. It’s amazing, really. And like I said, after that loss against Pliskova, the only place where I wanted to be was probably home. Change environment, refocus, not see people here because I’m out of the tournament in singles, but like try a new place, home and practice, focus on the next goals. But when you have this at the end of the two weeks it’s a lifetime memory. So I’m very grateful to have her.
WTA Insider: You both talk a lot about how close you are, referring to each other as best friends. There’s a difference between best friends on tour and best friends in life. So what does being ‘best friends’ mean to you?
Tímea: I think there is a good sentence: Best friend on tour or best friend? I have like two, three best friends. Kiki is one of them. To be honest, I don’t have that many amazing close friends on tour anymore. I have people I really like, but in Hungarian, we are not like friends. Like we don’t say we’re friends with anyone. She’s really family to me. It’s very different. It’s not happening on the tour, it’s really happening in life. So that’s why I think it’s very different. We can hang out any time. Doesn’t matter.
Kristina: We know everything about each other’s private life. There’s no one else on the tour that knows that. But because I don’t treat her as a best friend on tour, she’s just my best friend in life. It makes a big difference.
WTA Insider: When did your friendship go from being maybe just a casual friendship to being one as deep as it seems to be now?
Tímea: I honestly think we were friends on tour and best friends on tour before. So it was happening on tour that we were friends, but then when we didn’t see each other, it was fine. I didn’t care, to be honest. See you in two months. When we started to play together again in 2017 we started to have a different connection. And to be honest, it happened for me two years ago here at the Australian Open when we won the title together, that something started to really change there. And then we really got emotional and we put more emotions in. It was not only like a job and work and friends on tour, but it became more than that. And ever since then, it’s just rolling. I know exactly when I don’t want to see her because probably she’s at the same spot as me. Like, I just don’t even want to hear her name. And then sometimes we cannot stop texting for like two weeks nonstop, or talk or Skype or whatever. As she said, it happened the same time for her.
Kristina: Obviously tennis put us together because we are the same generation. First time I think I saw you was under-twelves. We played against each other and then we played juniors together. I still remember I was lending you my Lacoste dress so we looked the same on the court. So what we were saying is that before we were like friends on tour, then best friends on tour, then we had this kind of split. The decision was made because of the Olympics and that it kind of was a cold period, I would say. And then this connection again, this reunion, how to call it. Maybe in life, sometimes it’s meant to be in order to find even better the person. That’s our story.