Standing between world number one Serena Williams and her 22nd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros on Saturday is rising star Garbine Muguruza.
Perhaps more than any other player, the young Venezuelan-born Spaniard is seen as the biggest threat to Williams’ ongoing dominance in the women’s game.
Standing three inches taller than Williams at six feet and comfortably outweighing the powerfully built American, Muguruza is one of the few women on tour able to rival Williams’ own formidable power game.
All four of their previous meetings have come at Grand Slam events, and though Williams has managed to win three of them, Muguruza’s solitary success came on the clay courts in Paris two years ago – a straight sets 6-2, 6-2 rout.
The Spaniard will know she has what it takes to beat Williams on clay and that she is in with a genuine chance of winning her first Grand Slam title.
Williams, meanwhile, is looking to equal the record of Steffi Graf by claiming her 22nd major trophy – although she doesn’t seem too thrilled at the prospect.
“I guess it’s how you look at it. The same with 21 and trying to get to another one. Nothing I can do about it,” she told reporters. “The only thing can I do is just play to win the tournament and that’s it.”
Speaking on her 2014 loss to Muguruza, Williams said: “I learned so much from that match. I hate to lose, but when I do, I hope it was worth it.
“That match was definitely one of those that was kind of needed and worth it.”
Williams went on to avenge that defeat twice, at the Australian Open in the round of 16 last year, and most notably in last year’s Wimbledon final, but Muguruza is a player who is constantly improving, still becoming the player she will one day be, and a third victory for Serena is hardly assured.
Muguruza, meanwhile, knows that the only way to beat Williams is to play her at her own game.
“Serena and I are players who like dictating the game,” she said.
“There will be moments when she’ll be dominating, and maybe at times, I will be dominating. I think I can be a tough opponent, too.”
Muguruza also feels her defeat to Williams at Wimbledon last year made her a better player.
“I have learned a lot how to control my emotions inside the court and outside the court,” she said.
Also counting in Muguruza’s favour are reports that Williams may be carrying a groin injury.
“I have had some issues, but, you know, it is what it is,” Williams said when asked if she was injured.
Williams has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros this year, while Muguruza needed three sets to beat Anna Schmiedlova in round one but has since been dominant with five consecutive straight sets wins.
Both women are in form and Saturday’s contest promises to be a real thriller.
Serena Williams (USA) vs Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Feliciano Lopez (ESP)/ Marc Lopez (ESP) vs Mike Bryan (USA)/ Bob Bryan (USA)
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