The clock has struck midnight for Garbiñe Muguruza, but not before making a massive impression at Roland Garros.
The 20-year-old half-Spanish-half-Venezuelan tennis player’s Cinderella run at the French Open came toan end at the hands of No. 7 seed Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova rallied to beat Muguruza, who was competing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Sharapova, the 2012 winner, overcame a sluggish start for the second match in a row, having defeated No. 19 Sam Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the fourth round. She improved to 18-3 in major quarterfinals and won her 48th match at Roland Garros (against 10 losses), breaking a tie with Serena Williams for the most among active players.
Williams, the world No. 1, barely added to her total at this year’s tournament because she proved no match in the second round for Muguruza, currently ranked No. 35 in the world.
Muguruza, a player to watch for a while, entered the French Open 0-5 against top-five players and 3-8 against the top 10. In her two most recent tournaments, she’d lost to Stosur in the second round of the Madrid Open and to No. 61 Francesca Schiavone in the second round of the Italian Open.
But the French Open was a different story as she crushed Williams 6-2, 6-2, followed that upset with two more routine victories and rolled to an early lead against Sharapova.
Muguruza dominated the first set on by breaking her opponent three times in five chances and hitting only seven unforced errors compared to 13 for Sharapova, who served at only 55 percent and won 2-of-9 second-serve points.
Sharapova, however, showed some of her trademark fight in the second set. After giving away a break lead with back-to-back double faults, the 27-year-old Russian had to hold at 4-5 to stay in the match. Muguruza then played a poor service game to get broken, and Sharapova served out the set.
“A lot of the games in the first set she was always up 30‑Love, 40‑Love, and then I’d win a point or two,” Sharapova said. “Then she’s the one with the confidence. You never are giving her a chance to think. In the second set, when you’re making her hit a second ball after her serve or when you’re being a bit more aggressive on the second serves, taking a bit more chances, all of a sudden she’s not hitting so freely.”
The key point of the third set came when Sharapova saved five break points while serving at 2-1. Both women struggled to string together two good points in the 10-minute game, with Muguruza taking the more offensive stance and forcing Sharapova to defend.
Sharapova struggled all day with the depth on her shots and couldn’t open up the court consistently enough to hit through her young opponent. But the Muguruza forehand broke down under pressure and began to leak errors. Sharapova finally earned the hold, won the next game for a double-break lead, at 4-1, and coasted from there.
“I knew that the match wasn’t over,” Sharapova said, when asked about the quick first set. “I still had a fair bit of time to change things around. Little by little I started playing a bit better, started getting in the court a little bit more, playing a little bit more aggressive, serving better than I did in the first set, returning as well, giving myself more looks at break points.”
“It’s tough now because I had the opportunity to win the match,” said Muguruza. “But I need more experience in these kind of matches. I think I played very good in three sets, but in the important moments I need to improve my mentality.”