2016 Series Spotlight: Garbiñe Muguruza

June 9, 2016 02:51 PM
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12: Garbine Muguruza of Spain hits a return during her match against Annika Beck of Germany at the Western & Southern Open at the Lender Family Tennis Center on August 12, 2014 in Cincinnati,Ohio (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By Ashley Marshall

The Garbiñe Muguruza File

Age: 22
Height: 6-0
Residence: Geneva, Switzerland (represents Spain)
Current Rank: 2
Career-High Rank: 2 (June 2016)
Best 2015 Series Result: 2R (Rogers Cup)

The Baseline

Garbiñe Muguruza made history by stopping history at the 2016 French Open. Now the question is whether the game’s brightest young star can carry that momentum through the rest of the summer.

In becoming the first Spanish woman to win the French Open in almost two decades – since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998 – Muguruza prevented world No. 1 Serena Williams from winning her 22nd Grand Slam women’s singles title, which would have tied Steffi Graf’s Open era record.

Muguruza’s 7-5, 6-4 victory at Roland Garros was emphatic, a clear reflection of what she did well rather than what Serena did not. And while it would be premature to call this the moment that Serena passed the torch, there can be no doubt that Muguruza’s stock is on the rise.

The final on the red Parisian clay pitted the best player of her generation against a talented 22-year-old whom many are predicting can be the face of the sport for the next generation. The Venezuelan-born Spaniard has climbed from No. 104 in the world at the end of 2012 to No. 2 in the latest rankings, consolidating her place as one of the game’s elite players.

Muguruza has now won eight of her past 11 matches against Top 10 players and has been to the fourth round or later six times in 14 career Grand Slam appearances, including last year’s Wimbledon final and the round of 16 twice at the Australian Open.

The one place she has yet to excel, however, is during the summer hard-court season. She is 1-3 in her career at the US Open, is 0-2 in Cincinnati the past two years and 1-2 at the Rogers Cup. Her best career Series result, in fact, is a quarterfinal showing in New Haven in 2014.

But in many ways, conquering the North American concrete seems inevitable. In 2015, Muguruza won her second career title at the Premier Mandatory tournament Beijing, and she also reached the final of Premier 5 event in Wuhan and lost in the semifinals of both the Premier event in Dubai and the year-end event in Singapore – all hard-court tournaments. She also possesses a big serve, an impenetrable baseline game and free-flowing movement around the court – all requisites for Series success.

Moreover, Muguruza has shown she can play with the most dominant player in women’s tennis. She has already beaten Serena twice in three years at the French Open, and she played the world No. 1 toe to toe in her 6-4, 6-4 loss in the Wimbledon final a year ago. All of which has led some fans to speculate whether her arrival finally gives Serena the true rival the sport has been waiting for.