Friday’s play at Roland Garros determined this weekend’s men’s and women’s finalists at the French Open, and the resulting match-ups should provide plenty of entertainment and drama.
On the men’s side, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will face second-seeded Andy Murray, while top seed Serena Williams will battle Garbine Muguruza, the tournament’s No. 4 seed.
Djokovic, currently the world’s top-ranked player, had an easy time in the semifinal against upstart Dominic Thiem, breezing past the Austrian 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Despite the lopsided defeat, Thiem remained upbeat about his future, as reported by Yahoo! Sports.
“He was just too strong today. That’s all I can say,” Thiem said. ”But still it inspires me to even work harder.”
Djokovic agreed with Thiem’s assessment, stating after the match that he felt his performance against Thiem was his best of the tournament thus far.
Britain’s Andy Murray had a slightly tougher road to the final, but had little problem defeating defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Murray knew he was in for a stern test from the third-seeded Wawrinka, and according to BBC Sport, didn’t particularly like his chances against Wawrinka, who is an outstanding clay court player.
“I’m extremely proud,” stated Murray. “I never expected to reach the final here, I always struggled on the clay. I hope I can put on a good match on Sunday.”
Murray will now turn his attention to Djokovic, who has beaten Murray 23 of the 33 times the two have met. This will be the 17th time Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have played in a tournament final, with Djokovic holding the edge by a 9-7 margin. This will be the first time these rivals have met in the French Open final, but they have met in six previous Grand Slam tournament finals. Djokovic prevailed in four of those meetings.
In women’s semifinal action, No. 1 seed Serena Williams took out unseeded Kiki Bertens in straight sets (7-6, 6-4). Garbine Muguruza, seeded fourth, dominated Australian Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal match.
Williams enjoyed the luxury of not having to play any highly-seeded opponents on the way to the final, as upsets were plentiful on the other side of the draw. Muguruza will present the American’s greatest challenge in her quest to win the 2016 French Open.
While Serena Williams is an established star in women’s tennis, Garbine Muguruza is still very much a work in progress, as described by U.S. News & World Report. Muguruza feels she is not the same player or person who lost to Williams on the grass of Wimbledon in that tournament’s 2015 final.
“I was tense. It was difficult for me to manage stress,” Muguruza confessed. “I have learned a lot how to control my emotions inside the court and outside the court,” she claimed.
For Serena Williams, being in the final of a Grand Slam tournament is old hat. Williams has won 21 previous Grand Slam singles titles, so while this is a wonderful opportunity for Muguruza to prove that she is now among the elite in women’s tennis, Serena Williams established herself as one of the game’s best long ago.
Serena Williams is the defending French Open champion, and has won the prestigious tournament three times in all. Where can Williams find motivation for this match when she has already accomplished so much?
One source of motivation will come in the form of her particular opponent. Garbine Muguruza upset Serena Williams when the two played in the 2014 French Open, so the desire to avenge that loss will be a factor for Williams. Additionally, a win this weekend will give Williams her 22nd Grand Slam victory, which would tie her with Steffi Graf for the modern-day (Open-era) record.
This weekend should feature two outstanding matches in the respective finals at Roland Garros. Djokovic versus Murray in a battle of titans, and Williams versus Muguruza — the established star going against a dangerous underdog.
Who do you think will come out on top in these interesting championship match-ups?
[Photo by Christophe Ena/AP Images]