This is a guest post by Karen Helf, our contributor who had the privilege of being at the thrilling 2016 Roland Garros final, in which Garbine Muguruza played impressive tennis to dispatch always-in-form 21-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. Enjoy Karen's in-depth report from Court Philippe Chatrier.
The 2016 Roland Garros women's singles final took place under persistent grey skies Saturday, June 4th. After a less than tennis-friendly weather week in Paris, the ladies put on a fantastic show for the near capacity crowd.
This player pairing was a replay of the 2015 Wimbledon final won by Williams in straight sets. Early in the match the sun appeared as though showing favor for the Spaniard dressed in bright yellow. In the chair, Monsieur Pascal Maria presided over the match and he would need to make a few meaningful calls as play unfolded.
1st Set Highlights 7-5 – Aggressive Baseline Battles
Both Serena and Garbine started strong, serving well and holding to 1-1. Garbine struggled with her second service game that included four ad-point rallies and a double-fault. Serena eventually yielded the game, hitting her serve return long and giving Garbine the hold to 2-2. At that point, Serena began to make some key errors. She double-faulted in her next service game and Gabine continued an aggressive strategy. Back on serve up 3-2, Garbine would hold closing with a line winner to 4-2.
With pressure on Serena, she produced a solid hold, including an ace, and Garbine won only one point. With the score now 4-3, Serena continued strong, breaking Garbine to 4-4. Serena's coach Patrick Mouratoglou displayed his approval, giving Serena a standing ovation. But that encouragement would not be enough.
Both Serena and Garbine held their next service games to 5-5, however, Garbine would produce a break just in time. She continued to pin Serena to the baseline with deep shots and hitting the lines. The final point went down the line, pinning Serena in the corner, where she stumbled to reach for the ball and missed. The score now 6-5 Muguruza.
Serena showed heart as she fought to produce a mandatory break of Garbine's final service game. Although this was one of the longest games of the match, Serena came up short on Garbine's third ad point opportunity with her shot landing in the net. Set to Garbine, 7-5.
2nd Set Highlights 6-4 – An Exchange of Breaks
The battle of the baseline continued, as both players challenged each other to go for the lines while keeping their opponent stuck to the baseline. Serena made classic shots, but Garbine was more solid, perhaps had a bit more nerve today. Garbine started strong, breaking Serena's first service game, 1-0. Only moments later, she gave the break back with two double-faults, one on ad-point. Garbine then gathered herself, playing an excellent next game and breaking Serena again to 2-1.
Both players would hold for the next four service games. Serena made a beautiful passing shot with Garbine at the net. With the score now 4-3 for Muguruza, the pressure was on to stay on course. Although Garbine started with a double, she pulled it out with an ace out wide and tested Serena's return game. At 5-3, the crown cried out, Serena please! But cheers of vamos followed to close.
In the final service game, Serena showed determination, but Garbine had the edge. As the last point fell, a lob going over Serena's head and landing on the baseline, Serena applauded while Garbine appeared stunned.
During the trophy ceremony, Serena received a very warm crowd greeting. Love came from every corner of the stadium, while Spanish flags flew joyfully in the light wind.
The Spanish National Anthem played once again on Court Philippe Chatrier. This time the champion, a young Spanish female, Garbine. Garbine reflected on this being the dream for which she has worked her whole life. Some may remember Serena had in fact forecasted this win at Wimbledon. Serena told then runner-up Garbine that she was sure she would win a major soon.
On match point after confirmation by Pascal, Garbine fell to the clay, as Serena crossed the net to congratulate and hug her opponent. Her last hug was given to French opponent, Kristina Mladenovic after her loss to Serena. Huge congratulation to Garbine and credit to Serena showing grace in both victory and defeat. Both players showed the best qualities of sport today.
Garbine played superior tennis despite a few ill-timed double-faults. In Paris she demonstrated a new level of mental toughness and will surely be a player to beat as the WTA 2016 tour unfolds.