After a dicey and damp second week, the final of the 2016 French Open is all set and will be a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final between the number one seed, Serena Williams and the number four seed, Garbiñe Muguruza.
For Muguruza, her form at this tournament in recent years has been a pre-cursor to her run in 2016 with consecutive quarter-final appearances in 2014 and 2015. Muguruza’s campaign this year began in shaky fashion, dropping a set (and her only set!) to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round. While a decent clay courter on her day, it was the first set that Schmiedlova had won on the WTA tour since January. Since then, Muguruza has rolled through the draw without dropping a set.
In the semi-finals, Muguruza overcame a few late jitters to book her place in the final with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Sam Stosur. Muguruza was powerful on return with Stosur’s serve more often than not landing in her hitting zone. Muguruza’s deep, penetrative groundstrokes were too much for Stosur to handle. There was a late wobble as the Spaniard failed to serve out the match at 5-2 in the second set and then served a double fault to go to *5-4 *15-30 when serving it out for the second time. Muguruza got the serve going though to finish it off. On the whole, it was another excellent display from the Spaniard whose results continue to improve in 2016… a Slam final ain’t too shabby!
Serena was on the verge of dropping her second set of the tournament in the semi-finals but just about hung on to defeat one of the stars of this year’s tournament, Kiki Bertens in a tight two setter, 7-6(7) 6-4. Both players looked to be struggling with respective injuries; although it was Bertens’s calf injury that got more coverage before the match, Serena’s movement was extremely laboured early on. The world number one though showed her champion qualities to save two set points (one at *3-5 *30-40 and a second one at 6-7* in the tiebreak). Bertens really had her chances and that first set was crucial…
This is a fascinating finale and I can see it from both sides as to who will prevail. Muguruza has played the more convincing tennis in the last two rounds but you can never write off Serena, even after her somewhat shaky displays in the last two rounds. The best example is last year’s Roland Garros where she was clearly ill and SOMEHOW managed to claw her way through a number of tight three setters. Muguruza though has the weapons to hurt Serena, as she pointed out in a 6-2 6-2 dismantling at this very tournament in 2014 where she pinned the American behind the baseline with exceptional central depth on her groundstrokes.
I have some slight reservations about Muguruza and her nerves; they have shown signs of bubbling over at times but she has managed to suppress them so far in closing out the wins against Kuznetsova and Stosur. I’m intrigued to see how she deals with them if she does get into a winning position. I’ve had a great feeling though about Mugsy for this tournament since the off-season. This was actually my final (lo and behold, a correct prediction!) pre-tournament and I was quite confident about it. The struggle I had was choosing between Serena and Garbi as champ. While I lost my nerve in my pre-tourny predictions (Sveta in R4!), i’m inclined to give Muguruza the nod in this one and I believe she has what it takes to win a first Slam title. In the back of my mind though… HOW can you write off Serena?!
I’ve missed so much of this tournament and have felt rather detached having been holiday so i’m REALLY looking forward to watching both finals this weekend (sticking with Djokovic in the mens). Sorry for the rather muted coverage of Roland Garros this year but thanks for sticking with the blog and for all the comments. I haven’t had time to respond but i’ve been reading them all :-). I’m going all out with the coverage of the UK grass court season so please stick around and spread the word if you like what I do. I will be sharing plenty of photos from both Eastbourne and Wimbledon, and i’ll be kicking off the coverage with Nottingham next week…. it’s my favourite time of the year and i’m going to savour it!