Take a bow, Garbiñe Muguruza. For the third Slam in a row, we have a new champion! Muguruza produced a sensational display to defeat the world number one, Serena Williams, 7-5 6-4 to win the 2016 French Open. It was a high-quality final with some thunderous hitting. The first set was one of the best of the entire year so far and a ray of sunshine in an otherwise damp and dreary tournament in Paris.
Where Serena’s performance level often attracts many of the talking points, in my opinion, this result was largely about Muguruza. The Spaniard produced some exceptional hitting from the baseline… it was incredible how she managed to outhit Serena in many of the rallies, particularly towards the end of the first set and into the second set. I mean, Serena didn’t play a bad match at all. She would have won the first set against many other players but Muguruza produced a tremendous level.
I was also really impressed with how Muguruza kept everything together and was mentally strong. We’ve seen some wobbles before, even in the last round against Sam Stosur where she failed to serve out the match at the first time of asking. Muguruza held with scoreboard pressure at *4-5 in the first set and managed to serve out the first set, saving two break points from *15-40 down and eventually sealing it on her third set point with a blistering backhand winner.
Muguruza played a poor game having quickly gone up a break in the second set. She had a *30-0 lead but ended up double faulting down break point… it was a rare moment because Muguruza was largely clutch on the big points. Muguruza though, continued to be lethal from the baseline and went up a break once more.
As Serena kept holding and her noise level began to rise sharply, I was sat there waiting for a stutter from Muguruza… but it never really came. In a fabulously thrilling end to the match, Serena saved four Championship points to force Muguruza to serve it out at 7-5 *5-4. For sure, I expected Muguruza to buckle under the immense pressure. I was shaking so I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling! Muguruza showed what a champ she is with the way she served it out… and that Championship point! It had a slightly anticlimactic feeling as Muguruza realised the lob was in but wow, what an incredible shot to win it on.
This was Muguruza’s first title on clay and also her first title of 2016! Muguruza’s results have been steadily improving during the year and it just felt like she’d timed it perfectly for the French. I had a feeling in the off-season about Garbi for the French Open and before the tournament although admittedly, I lost my bottle in picking her as my champ at the start of the tournament. It reminds me of Petra and Wimbledon 2014… I had champion vibes but didn’t follow through and picked Petra as a finalist in the end and went safe with Serena!
Taking a step back from Serena’s incredible career, two Slam finals this year is still an excellent achievement… but it’s not what we’ve come to expect from Serena who has now lost consecutive Slam finals for the first time in her career. Once again, #22 was so near yet so far. Kudos to Serena though who was extremely gracious in defeat and gave all the credit to Muguruza. Her reaction after realising the lob on Championship point was in was wonderful. This will be a tough one to take but today was Muguruza’s day… congrats, Garbi!
Here are some of my favourite tweets from the women’s final…