Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Serena-Muguruza showdown

Published:Saturday | June 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Serena Williams of the US clenches her fist after scoring a point in the semi-final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, yesterday.
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza returns the ball to Australia’s Samantha Stosur during their semi-final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, yesterday.
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PARIS (AP):

Two years ago at the French Open, Serena Williams was stunned in the second round by a 20-year-old opponent participating in only her 13th match at a major tournament.

That 6-2, 6-2 loss to Garbine Muguruza was, and remains to this day, the most lopsided defeat of Williams' 338-match Grand Slam career.

So guess who the No. 1-ranked Williams will face in the final at Roland Garros today as she attempts to earn her 22nd major championship and equal Steffi Graf's Open-era record?

Muguruza, of course.

"I learnt so much from that match. I hate to lose, but when I do, I hope it was worth it," Williams said. "That match was definitely one of those that was kind of needed and worth it."

Since that setback, Williams has won 47 of 50 matches at majors, collecting four trophies along the way to boost her total to 21. Only Graf and Margaret Court, with 24, own more.

Williams moved one victory from Slam title No. 22 - including her second in a row at the French Open - by getting past a poor start and beating Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7), 6-4 in the semi-finals yesterday. The No. 4-seeded Muguruza advanced by eliminating 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4.

"She and I are players who like dictating the game," Muguruza said about herself and Williams. "There will be moments when she'll be dominating, and maybe at times, I will be dominating. I think I can be a tough opponent, too."

It's also a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, which Williams won in straight sets.

Because repeated rain sabotaged the schedule and eliminated the usual rest time at a major, today will be Williams' fourth consecutive day on court, and Muguruza's third. Williams also acknowledged having "some issues" with a leg muscle, although she would not elaborate.

Under a full cover of clouds and with the temperature in the 50s, Williams made 22 unforced errors in the first set alone.

 

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"Definitely, I agree 100 per cent: If she plays like this, she's not going to win," said Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. "So I don't expect her to play that level tomorrow."

Bertens smacked big forehands, creating outright winners or forcing Williams into mistakes, and broke in the very first game on the way to a 3-1 lead. Ahead 5-3, Bertens earned the first of two set points, but her forehand let her down, pushing the ball into the net.

Bertens, who entered her first Slam semi-final on a 12-match winning streak, was dealing with an injured left calf, which was heavily bandaged. She decided to play only after a warm-up session 1-1/2 hours before the semi-final.

"We were, like, discussing, 'OK, are we going to play, or are we not going to play?' I was like, 'OK, I want to go on court. I don't want to regret it afterwards that I didn't do it.'"

With that in mind, Williams began using drop shots to great effect. She won four points that way in the first set, including one that finally produced her initial break point, cashed in for 5-all.