French Open | Muguruza set for Sharapova showdown

Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza is looking a potential champion at the French Open again, and she is playing like it.

She has also reached the quarter-finals without breaking a sweat.

When the two-time Grand Slam winner blew through her third round match against Sam Stosur, who is a former finalist in Paris, she said: “I believe I can hold a trophy—not only here, I believe I can do it in every tournament I play.”

She is also growing in confidence and with the departure of second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki earlier in the day, the World No.3 is a favourite for the title.

Favourite? Not really.Because I think it's a match that is going to be very interesting. The quarter-finals are going to be very good. I saw her match against [Karolina] Pliskova the other day, and she played extraordinarily well. She's played very good matches. I haven't played against her for a while. She's in quarter-finals and I'm really looking forward to playing her. Garbine Muguruza

“Of course here it’s so many matches. It’s a very long tournament. But I’m pleased with my performance today,” she continued after her match with Stosur.

“I think it was never easy match against [a] Grand Slam champion, [and] she did a final here. I’m pleased because I felt in control in the match.”

The 24-year-old Spaniard won the French Open in 2016, beating Stosur in the semi-finals and then she stunned Serena Williams 7-5 6-4 in the final.

In 2017, she fell in the fourth round at Roland Garros, against France’s Kristina Mladenovic, but then won Wimbledon.

While she did not do much on clay coming into Paris, she is now playing better and better and wants to use her Grand Slam experience in the second week.

“Once you have won Grand Slams, you have prove[n] that you can do it,” she said. “But from that, I think a lot of players have a lot of chances.

“That’s something that’s not going to help you put the forehand down the line inside. Of course, mentally you know you can do it, and that gives you more belief.”

On Day 9, Muguruza faced Lesia Tsurenko for a place in the quarter-finals.

Tsurenko is a 29-year old Ukrainian player, who has won 4 singles titles on the WTA Tour, as well as 6 singles and 8 doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

She endured a rather difficult path to the fourth round at Roland Garros, opening her account with a battling three set victory over Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele, recovering from dropping the first set to win 4-6 6-2 6-2.

Tsurenko again dropped the first set against Coco Vandeweghe, but finished strongly to win 4-6 6-3 6-0 and was more comfortable in defeating Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4 6-2 to reach the fourth round in Paris for the first time.

Muguruza and Tsurenko had met twice so far in their careers and the head-to-head was tied at one win apiece.

On Monday, the match was bounced from Court Suzanne Lenglen to Court Philippe Chatrier and eventually landed in the bullring (Court 1) late in the afternoon where, after just two games, Muguruza advanced when Tsurenko was forced to retire, and she now will face Maria Sharapova, handed her spot by the sudden withdrawal of Serena Williams.

Tsurenko, ranked 39th, stretched to reach a Muguruza serve in the second game and immediately clutched the back of her thigh before calling for the trainer.

A physio was summoned and Tsurenko was given extensive treatment.

She played on for five more points but then walked to the net and shook hands at the start of the third game.

“I think it happened in the second game,” Muguruza said. “I saw her hitting a shot and that didn’t look very well, and so from that moment, I think she didn’t feel good. So is not beautiful.

“I know how it feels – I had a few retirements at the beginning of the year. Is very tough, especially here, for sure, fourth round of the French Open.”

Muguruza is yet to drop a set in the tournament and will face two-time champion Sharapova for a place in the semis after Williams pulled out due to a pectoral injury before the start of their eagerly-awaited duel.

Maria Sharapova benefited from a walkover

Getty Images

She said she had been shocked to hear about 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams.

“It caught me completely by surprise that she withdrew. I guess she has her reasons. It was going to be a very interesting match, for sure,” the Spaniard told reporters.

Four years after Sharapova beat Muguruza en route to her second Roland-Garros title, Muguruza is now a very different prospect.

With three Roland-Garros titles between them, a showdown between the Spaniard and Russian has the box-office appeal befitting the setting and the stage, but neither player will have enjoyed advancing in such circumstances, particularly Muguruza, who knows Tsurenko’s pain only too well.

Sharapova has won all three of their previous meetings, and it was Roland Garros that launched Muguruza into the public consciousness, having handed Williams her heaviest Grand Slam defeat in the second round before running into the Russian in the quarters in 2014.

Back then, she fell in three sets as Sharapova surged to her second Roland-Garros title, and her most recent major triumph.

In the intervening years it is the Spaniard, however, who has collected Grand Slam crowns, both on the clay of Paris and, last year, on the lawns of Wimbledon.

She, too, has held the World No 1 ranking and, as the seedings suggest, there are many who make Muguruza their favourite heading into the match.

“Favourite? Not really,” she insisted. “Because I think it’s a match that is going to be very interesting.

“The quarter-finals are going to be very good. I saw her match against [Karolina] Pliskova the other day, and she played extraordinarily well.

“She’s played very good matches. I haven’t played against her for a while. She’s in quarter-finals and I’m really looking forward to playing her.”

Sharapova’s first appearance at Roland-Garros since 2015 has been impressive.

The 31-year-old had dropped just one set en route to the last 16, and served notice of her intent with that emphatic 6-2 6-1 demolition of 6th-seeded Pliskova.

“She’s very solid and aggressive,” Muguruza said, when asked to size up the five-time Grand Slam champion’s game.

“I’m going to try and play my best tennis, and I think that we both have the same type of aggressive game.

“So what I have to do is be on top of things and start first.”

The two players have not met since 2014 so those Sharapova’s previous three victories over the 24-year-old opponent probably don’t count for much.

“It’s true that this was a long time ago and a lot of things have changed,” Muguruza concluded.

“What I will do when I walk on the court, I’ll have the same spirit but with different options to win.

Yeah – things have changed a lot.”




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