French Open: Garbine Muruguza shocks Serena Williams; Venus Williams loses too
The weather has been miserable in Paris. The met did predict some showers for Wednesday, but they should have in fact have issued a seismic alert. The red clay inside the Suzanne Lenglen court was the epicenter of a mega earthquake created by the belief and determination of a 20 year old Garbine Muruguza. The audacious Spaniard played brilliant tennis to oust the defending champion 6-2, 6-2 in an hour of 14 minutes.
The Spaniard, seemingly focused and determined, broke Serena early to take a 2-1 lead and make a positive beginning to the match. Any hopes of a prompt response by Williams were immediately dashed as Muruguza broke a second time to a commanding 4-1 lead.
Serena was clearly unable to respond to the terrifying assault from the young Spaniard and there were already murmurs around the court about whether we were about to witness a major upset. Any expected response from Serena was dismissed by a resolute Muruguza who kept the advantage intact to run away with the set.
The French Open has been shuddering at the flow of upsets, Serena’s sister was already upset by a teenager on the Phillippe Chatrier. Venus lost 2-6 6-3 6-4 to Anna Schmiedlova just moments after took to the court against Muruguza. The two sisters were drawn to meet each other in the next round.
Any hopes of a revival from Serena were put to rest with an iron fist by Muruguza. The 20 year old played remarkably well – striking a mean forehand and serving exceptionally well to push Serena to the back foot. Meanwhile, the American seemed heavy on her feet, making unseemly errors off both flanks to slip to 0-3 in the second set.
With a double break to her name, Muruguza had the match in control but with such a high profile opponent across the net – the question was whether she could hold her emotions under check. And the doubts deepened when Serena broke her in the fourth game to get to 1-3.
Shockingly though, Serena gifted a couple of double faults in the next game and Muruguza drew blood again to break at love and take a 4-1 lead. The sixth game saw Serena enjoy three break points at 0-40 in the sixth game.
Muruguza may have surprised even herself, but she played some nerveless tennis to claw her way back to deuce and a frustrated Serena helped her hold serve with a wayward forehand to get within a game of a shocking defeat.
Garbine managed to find some big serves including an ace as she set up three match points for an iconic victory. She took the match when Serena dumped a forehand return in the net off a second serve to end the match.
It was a listless performance from the defending champion, on a day when her opponent played glowing tennis. The world No.1 threw in 5 double faults and made 29 unforced errors. Muruguza was dominant, winning 60% of the points and converted 5 of 8 opportunities to break serve for a memorable victory.
Speaking to Cedric Pioline on the court after the match, “I planned to be aggressive and play focused and I managed to play well today. I am really very happy,” said an elated Muruguza. “I have a big opportunity, but every match is a tough one in a grand slam. But today is a great day.” It indeed was.
“It was one of those days. You cannot be on every day. It happens, life will go on,” said Serena. “You have get back up when you are knocked down and I enjoy doing that.” The defeat was reminiscent of Serena’s first round defeat to Virginie Razzano in 2012. She came back to win the title last year.
The younger Williams looked chic and ready in her green and grey ensemble as she walked out on Suzanne Lenglen to squeals of excitement. She was odds on favourite to win the title, some almost willing to pencil her name to the trophy even before the start of the event.
But one young lady’s refusal to be overwhelmed by that consensus gave us reason to fall in awe with her, even as we mourn the shockingly early exit of the great champion.