Garbine Muguruza Wins 2016 French Open – No. 1 on the Horizon?

Serena Williams had no answer in the 2016 French Open final for the consistent high-level play of what appears to be a future No. 1 player in the making.

Garbina Muguruza is the last woman standing at Roland Garros 2016. The Spaniard defeated Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4 in the final from the French Open on Saturday. With the win, Muguruza claimed the first Grand Slam title of her career – with the promise of more to come.

The French Open champion will move up to the World No. 2 position on Monday, supplanting Agnieszka Radwanska near the top of the rankings. Angelique Kerber, a first-round casualty at Roland Garros, also dropped a spot. Muguruza still trails Williams by about 1600 points, however the World No. 1 ranking looks to be up for grabs soon. Williams won Wimbledon last season and she will have a lot of ranking points to defend at the All England Club in late June/early July. There certainly are scenarios where Muguruza seizes the World No. 1 ranking in a little over a month’s time, especially if the Spaniard goes on to win Wimbledon in Serena’s place.

For Williams, the loss represents another missed opportunity to tie Steffi Graf for most singles titles in the open era. After winning Wimbledon last season, the American looked like a lock to at least tie the record at some point. However, she has suffered an upset in three straight majors now and Graf’s record is actually looking quite safe.

With Williams’ 35th birthday coming in September, you have to wonder how many more deep runs she has left in her future. She never looked great at Roland Garros this season and may have been fortunate that Victoria Azarenka was not up to par at the clay-court Grand Slam this season. The Belorussian, at her best, probably would have taken Williams out in the quarterfinals and, in a way, Roland Garros 2016 actually lacked a solid 2nd punch as Williams was not near her best tennis.

If we presume that she will start to drift a bit, then Muguruza is a clear bright light to supplant her at the top of women’s tennis. However, if Azarenka returns to full fitness – and stays there for a prolonged period of time – then a Muguruza-Azarenka rivalry could develop on the WTA Tour. In my view, Azarenka’s best tennis beats Muguruza’s best – the question is more of health than of ability. Furthermore, 19 year old Belinda Bencic is another player that could come back from injury strong. The Swiss player won the Premier Mandatory event in Canada last season and, currently ranked 8th, she’s the youngest player in the Top 30.

Next up on tour are some small grass-court events that lead up to a big one. The main draw at Wimbledon 2016 will see first-round action on the 27th with Muguruza very much a contender in that draw as well.

Shane Lambert