French Open: Garbine Muguruza upsets Serena Williams for women’s title

Story highlights

Muguruza prevails 7-5 6-4

Wins first grand slam title

Williams deprived of record-tying 22nd major

Men's final Sunday

Paris CNN  — 

A Spaniard was crowned champion at the French Open – but it wasn’t Rafael Nadal.

Garbine Muguruza upset Serena Williams 7-5 6-4 on Saturday to win the first grand slam of her career, while also depriving the American of tying Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 majors.

While Nadal is considered the greatest clay-court player of all time – he owns a record nine titles at Roland Garros but had to withdraw with a wrist injury last week – Spain hadn’t produced a women’s champion at the French Open since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998.

“We were so sad when Rafa had to pull out,” Conchita Martinez, Spain’s Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain, told reporters. “If you know Rafa you know how much he wanted to play here.

“It was a sad day but the way Garbine was playing, you could see that she would have a chance to win this tournament, so Spain is very lucky to have these unbelievable tennis players,” added the 2000 French Open finalist.

Sanchez-Vicario, part of the crowd on Philippe Chatrier court, earned the nickname “Barcelona bumblebee” from late tennis writer and historian Bud Collins. She was one of tennis’ top movers, relying on counter-punching to frustrate and wear down rivals.

Muguruza tallies victories in dissimilar fashion, crushing balls from the back of the court. Her serve, when working, is a weapon. It came to the 22-year-old’s aid more than once in the final, particularly when facing break points in the first set, although she also double faulted nine times.

Mind you, Muguruza clinched the trophy with a stunning lob.

“I’m pretty shocked still,” Muguruza told reporters about 2.5 hours later. “I think I’ve got to take my time and enjoy, because with tennis players it goes so fast.

“For Spanish people this is the tournament. When you’re a kid and practice on clay, you’re always, ‘Oh, I wish I could win Roland Garros.’”

They are sure to be celebrating in Venezuela, too. Muguruza was born in Caracas and only made the decision to represent Spain in team competitions two years ago.

If Nadal’s wrist heals in time, he is expected to partner Muguruza in mixed doubles at the Olympics in August.

Her ability to change direction in rallies and hit down the lines troubled Williams, who had downed Muguruza in the Wimbledon final last July but lost to her at the French Open in 2014.

“I just thought at Wimbledon I was very nervous,” said Muguruza. “I put that aside today. I was like, ‘Come on, let’s go for it.’”

Williams, for the third consecutive major, didn’t win the title. Roberta Vinci stunned Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals and in the Australian Open final, Angelique Kerber outlasted her.

Read: Kerber edges Williams

That is, for the 34-year-old, a source of concern.

The aura of invincibility is fading, if only a little.

Williams kept the press waiting for two hours Thursday. On Saturday it was the opposite. Williams, unusually, went virtually straight from the court to the interview room. She didn’t want to hang around.

Williams felt the pressure when attempting to reach 18 majors – to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova – and is now struggling to match Graf.

Employees set the last layer of clay on the Suzanne Lenglen court on May 7, 2012 at the Roland Garros tennis stadium in Paris, where the French Open tennis tournament will run from May 22 to June 10, 2012. AFP PHOTO JACQUES DEMARTHON        (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/GettyImages)
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Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was convinced it’s a matter of when, not if.

“You can’t play a grand slam final for history like any other, even though one grand slam final is a lot,” he told reporters. “So it’s going to take the time it’s going to take. But we’re going to do it.

“The good thing is we’ll have many (chances) because she’s in finals almost every time.”

Questions surrounded Williams’ health ahead of the finale, with an adductor injury the issue. The world No. 1 appeared sluggish in the first set of her semifinal against Kiki Bertens on Friday and in the quarterfinals Thursday against Yulia Putintseva, when Williams was two games away from defeat in the second set.

She seemed to be moving better, though, against Muguruza but was outdone by the fourth seed.

“I’m not one to ever make excuses and say, ‘Oh my adductor was hurting or whatever,’” said Williams. “At the end of the day I didn’t play the game I needed to play to win and she did.

“I think she has a bright future, obviously. She knows how to play on the big stage and she knows how to … clearly she knows how to win grand slams.”

Those nine double faults allowed Williams to gain an edge in Muguruza’s service games, yet she rarely capitalized. Her drop shots landed in the bottom of the net.

Williams actually posted better numbers in winners and unforced errors, compiling 23 winners and 22 unforced errors to Muguruza’s 18 and 25. Muguruza, however, won most of the key points.

“I think she played the big points well,” acknowledged Williams.

The first momentum swing in mostly cloudy conditions in Paris – but there was no rain, for a change – came in the fourth and fifth games. Muguruza saved two break points, one with an ace, and broke in the ensuing game when Williams double faulted.

Williams got back to 4-4 and Muguruza held firm serving at 4-5.

A crunching backhand down the line, followed by a penetrating forehand, allowed Muguruza to break for 6-5.

As the pendulum swung, Williams then benefited from two break points at 15-40. But after a forehand return wide and ace, Muguruza reached the respite of deuce. And later, on a third set point, she clinched the opener with a booming backhand down the line.

First set important

How pivotal was the first set? Williams was 19-0 in grand slam finals when winning the first set and 2-5 when losing it.

Muguruza registered the telling break of the second at 1-1 and held on to the advantage, despite Williams bravely saving four match points at 3-5.

Mouratoglou suspected Muguruza would crack, like others have done when trying to close out Williams, but she didn’t. On a fifth match point, with Muguruza serving at 40-0, she struck the brilliant backhand lob that Williams thought would go long.

Muguruza fell to the court in celebration once she knew the ball was good.

“She deserved to win,” said Mouratoglou. “When you are able to finish like the way she did in the last game, it’s a second reason to say she deserved it.”

Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic plays No. 2 Andy Murray for the men’s title Sunday. Djokovic is a Serb and Murray is British.

With Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez winning the men’s doubles title after the women’s final, Spain reigned at the French Open on Saturday, led by Muguruza.

Who will win the men’s title, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray? Have your say on CNN’s Sport Facebook page

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SEVILLE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Marcel Granollers, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, King Juan Carlos of Spain, team captain Albert Costa, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer pose with the Davis Cup trophy during the third and last day of the final Davis Cup match between Spain and Argentina on December 4, 2011 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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