French Open: Williams vs Muguruza F Preview

By Jake Davies

  • Serena Williams [1] vs Garbiñe Muguruza [4]- H2H: Williams leads 3-1
  • Williams defeated Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7) 6-4
  • Muguruza defeated Samantha Stosur [21] 6-2 6-4

PARIS, FRANCE: World No.1 Serena Williams faces Garbiñe Muguruza in another Grand Slam final for the Roland Garros crown.

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As expected by many, Williams and Muguruza will contest the French Open final on Saturday. Some of the matches that the World No. 1 has featured in this tournament was eerily reminiscent of her struggle to victory at last year’s Roland Garros. In her quarter-final match against Yulia Putintseva we witnessed the 21-time grand slam champion fight when her back was against the wall. This was a common feature in five of her seven matches en route to the title last year. Williams lost the first set to Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens just to get to the Quarter-Final in last year’s competition.

Muguruza has experienced a very different tournament to Williams this time around. The Spaniard has dominated virtually every opponent and obstacle in her way to the title, including a former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The manner in which Muguruza has been winning matches in Paris, suggests that she’s finding the form that catapulted her to her first Wimbledon final and further success in Asia towards the closure of the season.

An intriguing talking point in the build up to Muguruza vs Williams is that the Spaniard may not allow the World No. 1 to start off as slowly as she has done in previous matches this week. Often, Williams has found herself in difficult situations in matches, but if Muguruza can successfully impose her game on Williams during those slow patches, then we could be seeing a first time Grand Slam winner on Saturday afternoon.

All four previous meetings between the two have taken place at a major. Their first match at the Australian Open in 2013 was one of the first matches where Muguruza presented the tennis world with her hard-hitting game style. She would go on to lose that match against Williams fairly comfortably, but she successfully left a lasting impression at just 19 years-of-age with hardly any Grand Slam experiences to build from.

The Wimbledon 2015 final turned out to be a memorable match. In that match Williams looked like she was destined to win very easily before a late fight back from Muguruza. It will be extremely compelling to see if Muguruza’s previous experience, not only at a Grand Slam final, but also against Williams in a Grand Slam final, can actually work out in her favour considerably in this final.

It can also be argued that Muguruza is under more pressure to deliver the first French Open women’s win for a Spaniard since 1998 when Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was victorious in Paris. On top of that, Muguruza was not expected to do anything on the grass courts of Wimbledon. In Spain she had grown up solely on many Spanish clay courts, which further adds to the expectation that she puts on herself on this particular surface.

Williams’s first Grand Slam title win came in 1999 at the US Open. Her first taste of success at the French Open was in 2002 where she beat her sister Venus Williams in the final. It is breathtaking seeing the longevity of Serena Williams’s career to still be a contender at the higher echelons of women’s tennis nearly 17 years since her first success at this level.

Williams now has her sight set on equalling the number of Grand Slam titles Steffi Graf managed to win – the most in the Open Era at 22. Many debate whether the unexpected losses to Roberta Vinci at the US Open and Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open this year, demonstrate Williams’s regression in her latter years, but it’s difficult to write champions like The World No. 1 off- simply because they continue to prove people wrong.

Muguruza can cause problems for Williams on Saturday. She has an explosive approach to the way she plays tennis, which has won her many big matches over the past 24 months. The big question is whether Williams raises her level when required. She will be aware of the questions Muguruza will throw at her and should be fully prepared for the volcanic ball-striking coming from the Spaniard’s side of the net.

Evidence shows that Williams regularly finds her best tennis when it really counts. That is backed up with the fact she has won 21 of 26 Grand Slam finals and, although it will be tight, she should claim her 22nd Grand Slam in front of the Parisian crowd tomorrow.