Muguruza Denies Serena 22 in Paris

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The vast majority of fans and analysts looked at this year’s French Open final as Serena Williams‘ chance to get to 22 grand slam titles and tie Steffi Graf‘s total. Garbine Muguruza was not part of that group though. Muguruza took the match in straight sets, 7-5 6-4.

Garbine Muguruza Wins the 2016 French Open Women’s Title

Based on form, not much was expected from Muguruza in this tournament. She came into Paris with a loss to Irina-Camelia Begu in Madrid and Madison Keys in Rome. In addition, she had disappointing results in the last two majors she competed in, with losses to Barbora Strycova and Johanna Konta. Her recent form did not indicate that she was ready to compete in another major final let alone possibly win it.

But that is exactly what she did, taking out every opponent that came her way in straight sets. Her biggest test en route came against Shelby Rogers who held set point against the Spaniard, but a consistent aggressive mindset kept Muguruza in the set and inevitably won her the match. She backed this impressive win with a straight set win over 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur in the semi-final.

Mugurza had every reason to be nervous coming into this match. It’s been a while that she has competed on a stage nearly as big as this and against such a strong opponent as well.

In the beginning seemed to be going the same direction as the Wimbledon final they contested in the year before; Muguruza broke through early with a break and had a 4-2 lead in the first set before Serena fought back, winning the next four games. However, Muguruza’s serve held up beautifully under pressure this time and brought her the goods in the key moments. When Serena broke back at 4-2, she kept going with her gameplan and did not let her nerves get to her.

She got the break early in the second set as well, with Serena’s historically untouchable serve off its rhythm and Muguruza absolutely pouncing on every opportunity. She let the nerves get to her in the next service game when three double faults cost her the break, but she got right back to business when she broke Serena again. In the next game, she broke yet again and rode the advantage to the finish line.

This match holds important historical significance as well. Muguruza is the first Spanish women’s slam winner since the four-time slam winner Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Monica Seles at this tournament back in 1998. Muguruza joins joins an exclusive list of grand slam winners from Spain that includes Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez.

Muguruza plays a much different style than her predecesors. While Martinez and Sanchez-Vicario were more traditional clay-court players who used a lot of topspin, Muguruza is an aggressive baseliner who takes the ball on the rise, with very little topspin and a lot of raw firepower.

Meanwhile, in Serena’s Chase for History:

Williams falls to 21-6 in grand slam finals. She misses out on yet another opportunity to win 22 slams and tie Steffi Graf for the most grand slam titles in the Open Era. This is the second straight missed opportunity as she fell in the Australian Open final earlier this year, losing in three sets to Angelique Kerber.

While there is no need to count a champion like her out, and there will be other opportunities, one has to wonder if the nerves are too great for her. In 2014, she encountered a series of troubles in the majors when she was striving to get 18, a number held by fellow legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Nevertheless, this is a moment to not focus on the failure of one great champion but on the success of another. Muguruza has shown her potential in the last few years and is finally living up to it. She’ll likely never be a consistent day in, day out player, but she will be one to watch for, with the ability to occasionally get on a roll and the talent to be a contender in these big tournaments.

 

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