In what was a rainy — and surprising — fortnight for the women in Paris, the last two standing are who we thought they’d be.
World No. 1 Serena Williams will get her second shot at Steffi’s Graf’s No. 22 in 2016 on Court Philippe Chartrier on Saturday, and across the net stands the woman who handed her a second-round loss at this tournament two years ago — her earliest at a Grand Slam since she teamed with Patrick Mouratoglou — in Garbiñe Muguruza.
I am admittedly impressed with Muguruza’s form over the rainy fortnight. Her tenacity in tough conditions and her mental fortitude after her first round made her look more like the Top 5 player she is rather than what she’s shown for most of the 2016 season. Meanwhile, while Williams breezed through her opening week, she has looked extremely shaky (and injured?) in her last two rounds.
As much as it’d be typical Serena to fight her way through nerves and injury to upend a less-experienced opponent in a Grand Slam final, I think this is Muguruza’s time — plus she’s already beaten Serena here before.
Jeff’s Pick: Muguruza in two sets
Really, René? Really?
Aren’t you the one who put Serena Williams into the finals and had her triumph at the 2016 French Open? Aren’t you the one who even didn’t put Muguruza into the semifinals a fortnight ago?
Yes, that would be me.
Up until the quarterfinals my pick would have still been Williams but…. the World No. 1’s match against Yulia Putintseva was cause for some question marks and while she got past the fiery Kazakh as well as a red-hot — but slightly ailing — Kiki Bertens, it wasn’t necessarily in convincing fashion. The American’s footwork looks a step slow, whether that is due to nerves or some injury rumors that Marion Bartoli has alluded to is tough to say — but Williams hasn’t played her best tennis in the past two rounds.
Will she be able to muster it up tomorrow in the women’s finals? Maybe. But based on Muguruza’s tournament, she probably has to, because the Spaniard has not only strengthened the momentum she had built in Rome, she’s been on and off the court fairly quickly — giving her a good chance to remain fresh not only physically, but also mentally.
I’m going out on a limb here but right now, I’m thinking the Spaniard will get her revenge for the Wimbledon final last year.
René’s Pick: Muguruza in two sets
I doubted Serena Williams’s ability to make it out of her quarter in our draw preview, and it would probably be foolish of me to pick against her again now that she’s made the final. However, I *did* pick Garbiñe Muguruza to win the whole darn thing in our preview, and I will stick with my gut.
Conventional wisdom about Serena used to say that if she made it deep, she would win the tournament — but in the last two majors, the World No. 1 has all but rolled through the early rounds only to lose late in the second week. The sample size is too small so far to call this a trend, but I wonder if the concept of tying Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam total might have gotten to her head — much like tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at No. 18 seemed to do.
I expect a close match with such hard-hitting we’ll feel it through our TVs, and I ultimately expect Muguruza to come away with her first slam title in two tight sets.
Sam’s Pick: Muguruza in two sets
Williams is eyeing her 22nd Grand Slam and her second at the expense of Muguruza — and Serena’s legend continues to grow with each victory. In my humble opinion, she is the best player, male or female, to ever step foot on a tennis court.
The matchup is an interesting one between two of the most offensive minded players in tennis on the slowest surface our sport has to offer. If either player comes out flat, she will be at the mercy of the other’s ruthless aggression. Under these circumstances, one would imagine that the slow starter would be Muguruza — purely because of inexperience. However, Williams has looked a bit shaky in her last two matches and Muguruza has looked great after rallying from 5-3* down in the first set of her quarterfinal against American Shelby Rogers.
Nonetheless, the World No. 1 was my pick before the tournament and she stays my pick for the final.
Nick’s Pick: Williams in three sets
I picked this final at the beginning of the tournament — and I’m quite excited to see what’s going to unfold on Court Philippe Chatrier tomorrow morning. I was so impressed with what Muguruza showed in her first Grand Slam final less than 12 months ago — as she never seemed overawed by the occasion — and I expect more of the same from her side of the court in this championship.
Outside of her first round blip against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Muguruza’s sustained level at this tournament has been some of the best she’s shown this season — and, surprisingly enough, has outpaced the World No. 1 in that respect when it comes to overall form in Paris. Despite all the question marks on the American’s side of the court, she’s still so incredibly tough to beat in Grand Slam finals — there’s a reason why, no matter what she’s shown in the six matches prior, it’s only been done five times (never in Paris).
I’m usually one to expect Williams to raise her level in the biggest moments, and although she’s given me reason to think otherwise based on her past two matches, I think she’ll still find a way to claw her way to No. 22 in a three-setter — but it’ll be a classic.
Vika’s Pick: Williams in three sets
Who do you think will raise the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen? Sound off in the comments!