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Tennis From Paris • Garbine Muguruza Dominates Maria Sharapova While Simona Halep Fights Past Angelique Kerber At Roland Garros

Simona Halep of Romania plays Angelique Kerber of Germany during their women’s quarter final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 06 June 2018. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG



By: The Frisco Kid


Two highly-anticipated, blockbuster quarterfinals took the courts of Roland Garros Wednesday, and one lived up to the billing, while the other didn’t. Top seed and two-time finalist Simona Halep had to weather an impressive effort from 12th seed Angelique Kerber to move through to the French Open semifinals, while it was complete one-way traffic for 2016 champion Garbiñe Muguruza, laying down another statement performance in her dominant 6-2, 6-1 victory over two-time champion Maria Sharapova.


The marquee showdown of the women’s quarterfinals, and the biggest matchup of the tournament after Sharapova’s highly-anticipated showdown with Serena Williams never happened due to a Williams withdrawal, Muguruza and Sharapova both have enjoyed success on the red clay of Paris, owning similar gamestyles, both powerful players looking to dictate play and control the center of the court.


“Being aggressive is, I think you know it’s part of my game. And when you’re facing somebody that also has an aggressive style of game, I think it’s about who takes the command, who takes the first opportunity,” explained Muguruza.


Early on, and throughout the match, it was clear to see Muguruza was doing just that. The third-seeded Spaniard, a winner at Roland Garros in 2016, dominated play on Court Philippe Chatrier from the very beginning, hitting harder and with more margin than Sharapova. While Muguruza hit each shot with power and intent, Sharapova, a big-hitting player herself, was left on the defensive and forced to pull the trigger too early, resulting in a staggering 27 unforced errors over the just 73 minute-match.


“I had to seize all the opportunities to bother her or, let’s say — not bother her, but to be aggressive. And I tried to fight, and that’s what I tried to do,” said the 2016 champion.


Garbine Muguruza of Spain plays Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women’s quarter final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 06 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Dominating on serve and dictating the points from the first or second shot, Muguruza was ruthless on serve, getting broken only once while winning 72% of points off her own first serve. The Spaniard, who won her second major crown on the lawns of Wimbledon last year, cracked ten winners and controlled her unforced error count, hitting just 15 to Sharapova’s much higher number.


“I knew she was a difficult player. I wasn’t thinking so much about the result, but I just was thinking about not dropping my level, not giving her a single point, and I guess that helped my performance,” commented the French Open third seed.


For Sharapova, it was a disappointing performance and end-result given her impressive runs this clay-court season and a chance at another major title, but the five-time Grand Slam winner should be pleased with the progress she’s made.


From an injury-riddled first three months of the season and a coaching change following Indian Wells, the 31 year-old turned her season around with encouraging runs in Madrid and Rome and signs of her best tennis once again in Paris going into the grass.


“Yeah, I guess, you know, on paper it’s a step in the right direction. I think not just — it’s tough to just assess a single tournament. I think I have to put a lot of things in perspective for the last, what, four, five weeks since the clay season. Coming into this part of the year, I was losing a few first-round matches, matches that I wanted to be winning, of course,” explained Sharapova following her quarterfinal loss to Muguruza.


“But to have had the victories that I have had, to have the results that I have, obviously moving a step in the right direction. But today was certainly not one of those steps,” assessed the former number one.


It was a very different story for the current world number one and top seed, Simona Halep, as last year’s runner-up looked to avoid another epic against two-time major winner Angelique Kerber like their thrilling semifinal battle at the Australian Open earlier this year.


Early on it however was looking as if that would not be the case, as the 12th-seeded German went up 4-0 on Halep, with the Romanian struggling with her emotions. But if there’s anything Halep could have learned from her Melbourne epic with Kerber and the ensuing Australian Open final, it was the developed emotional maturity within her, and that was on full display as she fought back in the first set, and despite losing it, remaining calm and improving her level to eventually wear down Kerber over the remaining two sets.


“Yeah, it was a tough start. I think I missed too much. I wanted actually to do too much in the match. It was tough because her ball is very low, and you don’t have many chances to finish the points from there. Actually, I want to forget those games because was not exactly what I wanted to play at the beginning, but just didn’t feel it,” explained Halep.


“Then I change it and it was much better.”


Halep’s new and improved mental strength and resiliency has been proven time and time again throughout 2018, and it was what got her through another difficult matchup against Kerber and what the Romanian will have to rely on if she is to finally win her maiden major crown this week in Paris.


“It was really about the mental. And also physical, for sure, but mental I was strong.

And after losing that set, when I came back it was a little bit tough, but I stayed there. I stayed focused. I never gave up. So I think that’s why I won today. My head won it,” assessed Halep following the match.


There will be no rest for either Muguruza or Halep as they will return to the courts of Roland Garros tomorrow for their blockbuster semifinal duel. Two of the top players in women’s tennis, two of the best performers on clay in recent seasons, and one women looking for another major trophy to add to her collection while another seeks the crown that has eluded her two times prior. What more could you ask for a Thursday showdown of tennis in Paris?

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