Sunday, 5 June 2016

Garbine the Queen of Roland Garros

Venezuelan born Spaniard Garbine Muguruza is the 2016 Roland Garros Women's Singles Champion.  The 22 year old fourth seed defeated top seed and world number one Serena Williams 7-5 6-4, gaining revenge some would say for losing to Williams in the Wimbledon Final last year.
I prefer to think of it not as revenge, but as a natural progression for a young player whose star began shining brightly in Australia in 2014.  Garbine won a lead up tournament to the Australian Open in Hobart in January that year, and although she had played Serena in the previous year's  Australian Open, no one had marked her for sustained success until this initial WTA win.

Her next on court meeting with Serena was at Roland Garros 2014 and those that had yet to notice her, soon did once she had knocked the younger Williams sister out of the French Open in the second round.

So fast forward two years and Serena and Garbine faced each other a second time on the red clay of Roland Garros, with just a little more on the line this time.
Serena opened proceedings and her first service game was blistering, winning all four points and making a statement far more authoritative than at the start of her previous matches.
Williams led 2-1 and had conceded only a single point, before putting the Muguruza serve under its first dose of pressure. Two break points and four deuces were negotiated successfully and Muguruza then turned it all around forcing Serena into error and having the defending champ 2-2 and 0-40.  Williams saved two break points but double faulted on the third to give Garbine a 3-2 lead and the first real advantage of the final.
Garbine served two double faults of her own when attempting to consolidate the break, but kept her cool, hitting powerfully to all parts, continually pressuring Serena, and a forehand winner swept the fourth seed to 4-2.
Serena, as expected, stuck back hard winning the next three games to lead 5-4 and require Garbine to hold serve to remain in the set.  This she did, and more, breaking the American serve and holding serve again, a backhand sealing the opening set 7-5.

The second set began with Serena losing serve thanks to a series of backhand errors.  Then Garbine, with three double faults in the second game, donated a break straight back.  The third game began with a typical Serena ace, but brilliance from Garbine including backhand and forehand winners ensured the third successive service break.
7-5 2-1 and looking good for Spain.
Games went comfortably to serve until Serena was serving at 3-5 to stay in the match.
In trouble once more with Garbine attacking her backhand, Serena had to save four match points before she won her fourth game for the set.

Garbine needed a solid service game to win the match and she delivered, racing to a 40-0 lead, Serena almost resigned to her fate.  The title was won with the first of the match points, a backhand lob landing spot on the baseline, and leaving Garbine unsure for a couple of seconds whether it was in or not.  The realisation of victory transformed the look of wonder into indescribable joy, on the face of the newest member of the Grand Slam tournament winners club.

This was a French Open final of exceptional standard, and it took a player confident that her game plan would be enough to match it with the best, provided that she didn't deviate from it, whatever the circumstance.  Garbine Muguruza has the potential to win more Roland Garros titles as her game is well suited to clay courts.
However, she made the Wimbledon final last year, so she can handle grass as well.  There is no reason why she can't be a major factor in all the four majors - consistency is the area which needs improvement, and time is on her side.
Serena still can win the remaining majors this year - just a little luck going her way wouldn't hurt, but it is harder each year to dominate.

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