Garbiñe Muguruza is a Grand Slam champion. That it happened so fast for the 22 year old despite feeling as if it took forever speaks to the new World No. 2’s overflowing talent and competitiveness.
Muguruza beat Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4 in Saturday’s French Open final, making her the only major champion under 26 years old in all of tennis, men or women. While the ATP celebrates Nick Kyrgios making a Masters semi in Miami or Dominic Thiem reaching the semis this week, it’s Muguruza who cemented her status as the sport’s best young player. Though this was her first tour final on clay and just her third title overall, it’s clear the sky’s the limit for the Venezuelan-turned-Spaniard, who won 14 straight sets after falling a set down in the first round.
Like their Wimbledon final last year, Muguruza led by a break at 4-2, only for Williams to level the match, but this time Muguruza took the decisive break in the end stages of the opening set. While Serena’s adductor injury was a factor in some capacity (how much, we’ll never know; regardless, it takes nothing away from Garbi’s win), it was a strange experience her watching play a match and have the other player controlling the flow of play.
Even when Williams is playing poorly, the sense is always that the score can flip if she gets going, and that was not the case here. Muguruza is essentially Maria Sharapova 2.0: more athletic, less lanky and hasn’t had major shoulder surgery, all while developing a clutch mental fortitude that was on full display in the high quality affair. She capably dealt with the heat of becoming the favorite as it became she was the superior player on this day.
Additionally, Muguruza came through one of the toughest challenges a tennis player can face: even in defeat, Williams reminded everyone of her own clutch abilities, saving four match points at 3-5, forcing Muguruza to stew on opportunities lost as she sat on the changeover. How did she respond? By closing out at love, including this incredible lob on match point:
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2016
After the ceremony and taking the traditional photos with her shiny trophy in the locker room…
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) June 4, 2016
…Muguruza was still in awe during press, thinking of her potential mixed doubles partner for the Rio Olympics:
Muguruza said one of her first thoughts after winning the title was: How could Rafa have won nine of these?
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 4, 2016
She may not get to nine Roland Garros titles, but one has to think that this won’t be the last time Garbiñe Muguruza lifts La Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.
Other Saturday storylines:
-Williams played without the nervy shakiness of her recent losses in New York and Australia, but today was just not her day. While she’s still likely to catch Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slams, she’ll go from holding all four majors to none if she doesn’t defend her title at Wimbledon in a few weeks. She has lost consecutive major final appearances for the first time in her career and now has all eight final trophies (for both champion and finalists), as she had never lost in the French Open final until now.
-Spain added not one, but three Grand Slam champions in the matter of hours, as Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez (no relation) won the men’s doubles over Bob and Mike Bryan in a thrilling three-setter. It was an incredible run for the champs, who took out the top team (Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut), the defending champions (Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo) and now the greatest team of all-time.
For Marc, 33, it finally added a major to his illustrious career, which included two Indian Wells titles with Nadal and two Slam finals with Marcel Granollers. For Feliciano, 34 and a successful singles player, it’s his first doubles title since 2004. The Bryan Brothers came up just short in their pursuit of their first Slam since the 2014 U.S. Open, their only major in the last 11 after winning all four in a row.