The third time might be the charm for Serena Williams. But history won’t come easy in Saturday’s French Open women’s final.
Williams, undoubtedly the best female tennis player of her generation, is one win away from tying Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era.
But she’s been this close before.
Williams was two wins shy of tying the mark and winning the calendar Grand Slam last summer before her shocking loss to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals, and she lost in the Australian Open final against Angelique Kerber earlier this year.
And if you account for Williams’ adductor injury and her recent slow starts, it’s no guarantee the No. 1 seed will beat No. 4 Garbine Muguruza on Philippe-Chatrier Court.
On the flip side, Muguruza is loose and playing with house money. The 22-year-old Spaniard enters her second career Grand Slam final fresh off two impressive straight set victories, including Friday’s semifinal win over veteran Sam Stosur.
Muguruza has recent history — and success — against Williams that she can draw on Saturday. She’s 1-3 in four career matches against Williams, all of which have been in Grand Slams. That one win came on the red clay in a second-round stunner during the 2014 French Open. Muguruza also already knows what it’s like to play Williams on the biggest stage, as she put up a good fight before losing in the 2015 Wimbledon final.
“It was a first final. The opponent was tough to beat,” Muguruza recalled about the 2015 Wimbledon final, via RolandGarros.com. “I was tense. It was difficult for me to manage stress. The surface was of course totally different. It’s on grass. I remember three points that I missed and she took advantage of this, but otherwise I wouldn’t say I made a very big mistake.
“This time I’ll have nothing to lose, so I will try and win against the best tennis player in the world. That’s all. I’ll try and control my emotions, and I hope I can win this title. Why not?”
Williams still is the best women’s tennis player in the world and can never be the underdog, but at 34, she needs to take advantage of chances like she has Saturday while she still has them, and that naturally can add tension and pressure.
That tension was evident in her last two matches, as she dropped the first set of her quarterfinal matchup against Yulia Putintseva and needed a tiebreaker before winning in straight sets Kiki Bertens in the semifinals.
Also, don’t forget her injury, which she received treatment for Thursday.
Saturday also will be her fourth match in as many days, as rain forced multiple delays and tweaks to the schedule at Roland Garros.
So the odds might be stacked against Williams, but we still wouldn’t bet against Williams. Ever.
While we don’t know the full severity of her injury, Williams has played through the pain to make her 27th career Grand Slam final.
And she’s not the only one who is fighting fatigue, as rain impacted Muguruza’s playing schedule, too.
Also, don’t underestimate the lessons Williams learned from her first and only loss to Muguruza two years ago.
“I hate to lose, but when I do, you know, I hope it was worth it,” Williams said, via ESPN.com “That match was definitely one of those that was kind of needed and worth it. … “(I learned) a lot. A ton. I don’t really want to elaborate, but it was a really unbelievable lesson for me. It propelled me to many, many, many wins after that.”
Expect another one of those wins Saturday and a piece of history along with it.
Thumbnail photo via Susan Mullane/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WordPress.com VIP