French Open tennis is live from Roland Garros from Sunday 28 May to Sunday 11 June.
Garbine Muguruza made her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, but it was at the French Open that she first announced herself on the biggest stage in 2014. In a remarkable exhibition of poise and composure, and big ground strokes, of course, the Spanish rookie put Serena Williams- arguably the greatest woman in the sport- to the sword in that second round ‘contest’ in 2014.
Garbine Muguruza first signalled her intentions with a crushing victory over Serena Williams at Roland Garros in 2014 (Photo by: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Muguruza threatened a repeat performance in the quarter final against Maria Sharapova, but the Russian fought off Muguruza’s advances, dug herself out of trouble in the second set, and rolled through the decider.
She repeated her quarter final run in 2015, losing to eventual finalist, Lucie Safarova. She also made the Wimbledon final that same year, before returning to Roland Garros to fulfil the promise she had shown a couple of years earlier- that she would one day become a champion in Paris. She didn’t have to wait too long. Muguruza defeated Serena Williams in the 2016 final to claim the biggest title of her career. She did it in straights again, just this time, it was much closer than the 6-2 6-2 of two years earlier.
The Spaniard didn’t start well in Paris; she lost the opening set against tricky clay court customer, Anna Karolina Schmieldova, but she recovered to win in three, and did not drop a set after that. It was a comprehensive triumph for Muguruza, who was by far the best player over the fortnight.
Defeat in the final prolonged Serena’s search for a record-equalling 22nd major, a feat she finally achieved at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams possesses a bizarre record at Roland Garros. She won her first French Open title in 2002 on her way to the Serena Slam, after which there was a long eleven-year gap before her second triumph in 2013, and then a repeat victory in 2015. Injuries contributed to Serena’s lengthy drought at Roland Garros, but so did the quality of the clay court experts at the time, particularly the great Justine Henin, who caused the American plenty of trouble in a fierce rivalry.
Henin was the last genuine high-quality clay court expert, and it is not surprising that since her retirement, Roland Garros has been dominated by the big-hitters. There were the odd titles for Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) and Francesca Schiavone (2010), but other post-Henin champions have included Ana Ivanovic, Li Na, Maria Sharapova (twice), and of course, Serena Williams (twice as well).
Maria Sharapova is expected to feature at Roland Garros after completing her suspension. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
That is likely to be the case again in 2017.
Williams will lead the charge, while defending champion- the inconsistent Muguruza finds comfort at the French Open. Maria Sharapova is expected to be back for Roland Garros, and the great competitor in Sharapova will be keen to make an instant impact on her return.
The French Open has never shied away from surprises, like Schiavone winning in 2010, and Sara Errani getting to the 2014 final. We have seen Timea Bacsinszky make the 2015 semis, and last year, it was Kiki Bertens who went all the way to the last four before being edged out by Serena Williams.
Who will make that now customary Cinderella run in 2017? We will find out from 28 May.