World number five Garbiñe Muguruza returns to the French Open looking to win back-to-back titles in Paris. The last player to retain the French Open women's singles title was Justine Henin, when the Belgian won a hat-trick of titles from 2005-2007. However, Muguruza has had mixed results in 2017, and she will be looking to rediscover her best form on the red dirt in the French capital once more.
Notable results to date
The 23-year-old has a poor 14-9 win-loss record, which is not good enough for the former world number two. Muguruza had a bright start to the year, advancing to the semifinals in Brisbane, and the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time in her career. The Spaniard recorded straight sets victories over Marina Erakovic, Samantha Crawford, Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the US Open last year, and Sorana Cirstea. However, she was unable to deal with Coco Vandeweghe in the quarterfinals.
The world number five's hard court results at the North American Premier Mandatory events were respectable. She reached the quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open losing to Karolina Pliskova in an entertaining clash, however, the big Czech got the better of Muguruza in two tiebreak sets. Muguruza recovered from a set down to defeat Christina McHale and Zhang Shuai in Miami but for the third time this season, she retired from a match in her fourth round encounter with eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki.
Clay Court results leading up to Roland Garros
The defending French Open champion finally transitioned from hard courts to her beloved clay courts. However, she didn't get off to a winning start in both of her two tournaments on clay. Anett Kontaveit came back from a set down to defeat Muguruza in three sets at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. Once again, Muguruza struggled at her home event at the third Premier Mandatory event of the year at the Mutua Madrid Open. 2015 French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky dispatched Muguruza, easily, 6-1, 6-3. Muguruza next travelled to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, where she reached the semifinals last year and was struggling on the hard courts before Rome at this stage last year.
Nevertheless, the conditions at sea level at the Foro Italico favour the 23-year-old. She came back from a set down to defeat Jelena Ostapenko, and she dispatched Julia Goerges in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals. Moreover, Muguruza clashed with 1999 champion Venus Williams in a mouthwatering quarterfinal encounter. The American was unbeaten against the Spaniard leading, 3-0 in their head-to-head series but the French Open champion turned it around, defeating Williams, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Unfortunately, Muguruza had to retire at 1-4 down in her semifinal clash with Elina Svitolina. The Spaniard suffered a stiff neck in training, and couldn't compete. It was Muguruza's fourth retirement of the year.
Best French Open result
Muguruza's memorable moment at the French Open was winning her maiden Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros last year. The Spaniard entered the French Open last year as the fourth seed, and she dropped a solitary set en route to her first French Open title.
The Spaniard defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three sets, and she breezed past French wildcard Myrtille Georges and Yanina Wickmayer dropping only five games in her second and third round matches, en route to the fourth round in Paris. Muguruza was impressive in her fourth round clash with 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeating the two-time Slam champion, 6-3, 6-4. The 23-year-old defeated Shelby Rogers and 2010 finalist Sam Stosur to reach her second Grand Slam final. In the final, Muguruza defeated three-time champion Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-4. It was the Spaniard's second victory over Williams in three years at Roland Garros.
At the French Open in 2014, Muguruza was 20 and she advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal defeating Grace Min, she then faced off against defending champion Serena Williams. She handed Williams her heaviest defeat at a Slam, 6-2, 6-2 in the second round. She defeated Schmiedlova and Pauline Parmentier to reach her first Slam quarterfinal. In the quarterfinal, Muguruza lost to eventual champion Maria Sharapova despite winning the first set.
The Spaniard was seeded 21st at the French Open in 2015, and she backed up her run to the quarterfinals. She recorded straight sets wins over Petra Martic, Camila Giorgi, and needed three sets to defeat Angelique Kerber and a straight sets victory over Flavia Pennetta. In the quarterfinals, Muguruza lost to Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (3), 6-3, who went on to reach her first Grand Slam final.
How Muguruza's game translates to this surface
On the defending champion's favourite surface, clay allows Muguruza to have more time on the ball before unleashing her backhand. For her height, the French Open champion has good movement on clay, and her serve is a good weapon on this surface. The former world number two serves well on clay, and she is strong on her forehand and backhand side. Moreover, the Spaniard is comfortable coming to the net, to finish points off quickly, as she used to play doubles with compatriot, Carla Suarez Navarro, it has sharpened her all round game.
Muguruza will be hoping to recover from her stiff neck in time, as she will be defending a Grand Slam title for the first time, and she will be hoping for a good run in Paris. The Spaniard has dealt with the pressure of being a Slam champion and hopes another deep run in Paris, will final allow her to kick start her season, and possibly lift up the second Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.