Thursday, May 29, 2014

FRENCH OPEN 2014: Serena stunned by magical Muguruza in Paris

It is the Grand Slam of firsts it appears.

Only a day after Li Na crashed out to join Stan Wawrinka as first round losers in an unprecedented twist for two reigning Australian Open champions, world No1 Serena Williams stumbled to defeat so that the top two women’s seeds are eliminated from a Grand Slam before the third round for the first time in the Open era.

An hour earlier, Serena’s sister, Venus, had fallen to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

What was meant to be a highly-anticipated third round between Serena and Venus has suddenly become a clash between 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza, who shocked the younger Williams sister 6-2, 6-2, and Slovak teenager Schmiedlova - a sign that perhaps the youth are finally rising in women’s tennis.

Spanish sensation Muguruza, who had managed only two games in her sole meeting with Serena last year at the Australian Open, pulled off the biggest victory of her career in 64 minutes after showcasing some incredibly smart and fearless tennis.

The world No35, who kicked off 2014 by winning her maiden WTA in Hobart, was 0-5 against top-five players going into the match but it was clear she had different intentions when she raced to a double break 4-1 lead in the opening set.

Such was the confidence of the young Barcelona resident, she aced to get her first set point then took the one-set lead with a service winner.

Serena was yelling at herself saying “I can’t serve” and those expecting a strong fight back were quickly disappointed as Muguruza broke in the opening game of the second set with a great cross court backhand passing shot.

She broke again for a 3-0 lead, and even though Serena got one of the breaks back, Muguruza was unfazed as she delivered another service break the following game for a 4-1 lead. The Spaniard saved three consecutive break points in game six and served out the match to love, celebrating in disbelief when Serena’s return landed in the net.

“I don't think anything worked for me today,” said Serena, who insisted she wasn’t suffering from any injuries.

“Honestly, I think Garbine played really well and she played really smart. I didn't adapt. It was what it was.

“It's great, because I'm going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again.”

For Muguruza, the key was having the right game plan. At no point did she appear hesitant or scared despite facing a 17-time major champion.

“She said that if I continue playing like this, I can win the tournament. I said ‘I will try, I will try’,” Muguruza said of the exchange of words she had with Serena at the net.

“Today I had everything really clear I was really focused, and I knew what I had to do on court, so I think that was the important part.”

She faces a fellow up-and-comer in the next round in the form of Schmiedlova and Muguruza believes the tides are about to turn in the women’s game.

“These things are going to happen, some time, a new generation is going to come, and I think now is the moment,” said Muguruza, who revealed she is yet to decide whether she will be representing Spain or Venezuela in Fed Cup.

Venus was also disappointed by her defeat and blamed the drop of her first serve percentage on her decline throughout the match. She admits that a third round against Serena was indeed in the back of her head.

“I think we both feel, I mean, I felt like this was a match that I was most likely going to win. I don't know how Serena felt, but I'm sure she feels like that every time she goes on the court. So I think our expectation was to play in the next round,” said Venus.

American teenager Taylor Townsend added another name to the upset list as she dispatched 20th-seeded home favourite Alize Cornet 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to post only her second career Grand Slam victory.

2012 champion Maria Sharapova made sure she wasn’t another casualty. The No7 seed recovered from an early break by Tsvetana Pironkova to defeat the Bulgarian 7-5, 6-2 in the last match of the day on Court Philippe Chatrier.

No12 seed Flavia Pennetta was also sent packing by world No99 Sweden’s Johanna Larsson while 18th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard recovered from a poor start to beat German Julia Goerges 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

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