Monday, June 2, 2014

Serena and Venus Williams Both Out at French Open

Garbiñe Muguruza, a 20-year-old ranked 35th, listed Serena Williams as her favorite player growing up in the WTA media guide. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
When Garbiñe Muguruza was growing up in Venezuela and in Spain, her favorite player was Serena Williams.

She would watch Williams’s matches on television and analyze videos. When she practiced, she would think about how Williams would serve, how she would play a backhand.
“Since I was a child, I thought, oh, I want to play against Serena on center court,” Muguruza said. “And today was the day, and I think I did very good.”
Yes, she did. Muguruza, 20, handed Williams her worst singles loss at a Grand Slam tournament, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.
All the studying of Williams’s game paid off.
“So when you watch someone play, you know exactly what you need to do to defeat her,” said Muguruza, who is ranked 35th.
After winning her first WTA title in January and reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open, Muguruza was seeking to continue her breakthrough season with her first victory over a top-five player. Her game plan was to be aggressive, play quickly and focus on the middle of the court so Williams would not be able to run around.
The loss to Muguruza was Serena Williams's worst singles loss at a Grand Slam event. Credit Yoan Valat/European Pressphoto Agency

But the biggest key might have been mental. The trick was forgetting she was playing Serena Williams.
“It was really difficult to be able to, O.K., be calm and say, ‘It’s another player,’ ” Muguruza said. “But I think I did it, and that was the reason I could play like this.”

Williams, the top seed and defending champion here, certainly looked like just another player.
Flat from the start, she had particular trouble with her serve, considered the best ever in the women’s game. She was broken five times and had five double faults, one of which gave Muguruza a break point in the first game of the second set, which she converted. Williams double-faulted twice in the fifth game of the set to give Muguruza a two-break lead.
Williams got three break-point opportunities in the next game, but could not convert.
“I don’t think anything worked for me today,” said Williams, who had eight winners and 29 unforced errors.
She added: “Honestly, I think Garbiñe played really well, and she played really smart. I didn’t adapt.”
It was another poor showing at a Grand Slam event this year for Williams, who lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round at the Australian Open.
“My first few months I don’t think has been great at all,” Williams said. “I haven’t gotten past the fourth round of a Grand Slam this year. I have a couple words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate, so I’m going to leave it at that.”
Garbiñe Muguruza during her second-round victory over top-ranked Serena Williams. It was the first win over a player ranked in the top five for the 20-year-old Muguruza, who won her first WTA title this year. Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

When Williams lost to Virginie Razzano in the first round here two years ago, she used it as fuel. She won Wimbledon, Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles in London, and the United States Open over the next three months, and then capped the year with a title at the WTA Championships.
“It’s great, because I’m going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again,” Williams said.
The women’s singles draw is now without its top two seeds, after Li Na lost in the first round Tuesday. It is the first time in the Open era that the top two women’s seeds at a major will not be in the third round.
The Roland Garros grounds were full of children Wednesday, a day off for French schools, so it was perhaps appropriate that young players grabbed hold of the spotlight with their charisma and confidence.
The 18-year-old American Taylor Townsend, in the main draw of a Grand Slam event for the first time, knocked out the highest-ranked Frenchwoman, 20th-seeded Alize Cornet, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Townsend, a former No. 1-ranked junior player, fought her own nerves and a heavily pro-Cornet crowd for the biggest victory of her young professional career. Cornet was behind a set and 1-4 in the second, but charged back to even the match. Townsend then rebounded to take a 5-1 lead in the third set and finally closed out Cornet after blowing four match points.
“I have been preparing for these moments,” said Townsend, who regularly consulted a small book of notes from practice to keep her focus during changeovers. “These are the kinds of things that I have been working for every day, you know; putting in hours on the court, putting in hours in the gym, putting in hours off the court.”
The performance even drew attention from Andy Murray, who called it a “gutsy win” on Twitter. Townsend celebrated by doing the Nae Nae, a popular hip-hop dance, fulfilling a promise she had made to her support team.
“She has huge potential,” Cornet, 24, said. “I will keep a close eye on her. She was born in ’96. That’s painful.”
Venus Williams, who turns 34 next month, has advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament only once since Wimbledon in 2011. Credit Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

About an hour before Serena Williams lost, Venus Williams, the No. 29 seed, could not fight off a youthful opponent of her own, falling to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Williams sisters had been on a course to meet in the third round, but neither made it that far.
Instead, Muguruza will face Schmiedlova in a matchup of up-and-comers.
“These things are going to happen, you know,” Muguruza said. “Sometime, new generation is going to come, and I think now is the moment.”
Also Wednesday, No. 12 Flavia Pennetta lost to Johanna Larsson, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 16 Sabine Lisicki retired with an injury against Mona Barthel.
Radek Stepanek ousted No. 15 Mikhail Youzhny, 6-0, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, in a match between players who had five-set wins in the first round. No. 20 Alexandr Dolgopolov lost in five sets to Marcel Granollers after winning the first two. Six of the top 20 men have been eliminated, including No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, the reigning Australian Open champion.
Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic avoided the upset bug, but top players understand the dangers that lurk early in Grand Slam events.
“You can never underestimate any opponent in a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said, “because Grand Slams are, you know, the biggest events we have in this sport, and it’s where all the players want to perform their best, and it’s where they get this extra strength and inspiration to play their best.”
It was just that type of moment for Muguruza.
“Before I felt very small, but today I thought, I’m not going to feel very small,” she said.
Asked what Williams said to her after the match, Muguruza said: “She said that if I continue playing like this, I can win the tournament. I said, I will try. I will try.”


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