Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

And so they meet again

PARIS — 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 remains the most lopsided of Williams' 338-match Grand Slam career.

So guess who the No. 1-ranked and defending champion Williams faces in the final at Roland Garros today as she attempts to earn her 22nd major championship and equal Steffi Graf's Open era (since 1968) record?

Garbine Muguruza.

"I learned so much from that match, Williams said of the 2014 loss. "I hate to lose, but when I do, I hope it was worth it. That match was definitely one of those that was kind of needed and worth it."

Since that setback, Williams began working with her current coach, Patrick Mouratoglou; has won 47 of 50 matches at majors; and won four major titles to boost her total to 21. Only Graf and Margaret Court, with 24, have won more majors.

Williams moved one victory from Slam title No. 22 by getting past a poor start and beating Kiki Bertens 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 in the semifinals Friday. Muguruza, seeded fourth, advanced by eliminating 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4.

"(Williams) and I are players who like dictating the game," Muguruza said. "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.

Muguruza's coach, Sam Sumyk, downplayed the significance of the players' 2014 French Open meeting.

"It was 250 years ago, so nothing to think about, really," Sumyk said. "But it's always nice to have (in) the back of your mind that you beat Serena already."

Because repeated rain sabotaged the schedule and eliminated the usual rest time at a major, today is Williams' fourth consecutive day on the court and Muguruza's third.

Williams also acknowledged having "some issues" with a leg muscle, though would not elaborate. Former player Marion Bartoli, working for a French television network, notified the world that Williams has an adductor strain in her upper leg. Asked about that report, Williams said, "Yeah, I heard she said that. I don't know. I'll have to ask her."

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

"Definitely, I agree 100 percent: If plays like this, she's not going to win (today)," Mouratoglou of Spain said. "So I don't expect her to play that level (today)."

What could determine the outcome of today's match is how each player likes to assert herself on the court.

As Mouratoglou says, it is almost always up to Williams whether she wins or loses. But Muguruza is an aggressive player, and she, too, feels as if she will either win or lose the match depending on how well she strikes the ball and how well she can pinpoints her placement.

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