In a clash of the former champions and former world #1s, Garbine Muguruza, the third seed from Spain, takes on Maria Sharapova, who won titles in Paris in 2012 and 2014. Muguruza, despite indifferent form for much of this year, looks to be playing the sort of tennis that has fired her to two Slam titles. Sharapova, meanwhile, is unquestionably playing her best tennis since returning from a ban for meldonium. But who will find themselves in the last four?
The pair have met three times and Sharapova has won all three matches. Their first meeting came in 2013 in Madrid, with Sharapova emerging a comfortable 6-2 6-2 victor. But, she found the Spaniard a tougher proposition when they renewed their rivalry in Paris in 2014. Muguruza came into that match having blitzed Serena Williams in the second round. But Sharapova emerged victorious from their quarterfinal 1-6 7-5 6-1. The Russian beat Muguruza again in three sets in Montreal in 2014.
Path to the quarterfinals
Muguruza began her French Open campaign with a solid win against 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, overcoming some early resistance to win 7-6 6-2. She then had too much for French wildcard Fiona Ferro despite a good effort from Ferro. The Spaniard then crushed Samantha Stosur 6-0 6-2 in a rematch of their 2016 semifinal clash. Muguruza then reached the quarterfinals when Lesia Tsurenko was forced to retire just two games into their fourth round match.
Sharapova faced an early three-set test when she took on Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp, narrowly passing it 6-1 4-6 6-3 from a break down in the decider. She then defeated Donna Vekic in a high-quality affair, with Sharapova just winning through in straight sets 6-4 7-5. Sharapova then delivered one of her best ever French Open performances to dismiss sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-1 to set up a hotly anticipated clash with Serena Williams, only for the American to have to withdraw.
How do they match up?
Though both Muguruza and Sharapova are comfortable in the forecourt, this match will almost certainly be contested mostly from the baseline. There are few more powerful ball strikers than Muguruza and Sharapova. The Spaniard favours her forehand slightly and uses it to control points extremely well. Her backhand should not be discounted as a danger to Sharapova, however, with Muguruza adept at it drilling down the line.
Sharapova also relies on her forehand to do the majority of the damage to her opponents. The Russian hits it with slightly more topspin than many on the WTA Tour, and this allows her to pull her forehand short at a tight angle, an effective tactic, though one more commonly found on the ATP Tour. Sharapova, has, however, been hitting a fair number of double faults so far in Paris, something she will need to cut down on against Muguruza.
Both these players come into this match in excellent form and it could go either way. But Muguruza has a lot more recent experience of playing in big matches at the business end of a Slam. That could give her a critical advantage in a match that may well come down to a few points here and there. Being able to find their best tennis when they need it most is the hallmark of Slam champions and Muguruza has been doing that for the past two seasons. The Spaniard in three sets.