What do you tell yourself when you’re about to serve for the match against Serena Williams at the French Open? In Garbine Muguruza’s case, you keep it simple:
“OK, don’t lose your mind,” the 20-year-old said as she stepped to the line to try to close it out.
Muguruza did more than keep her head together. She used it well enough to throw the No. 1 seed off her game and hand her the most lopsided loss of her Grand Slam career, 6-2, 6-2, in just 64 minutes.
“She played really well,” a disappointed and slightly stunned Williams said afterward, “she played really smart.”
Muguruza’s game plan was the height of simplicity: Hit the ball right down the middle, with as much pace and depth as possible.
“I wanted to be so aggressive from the beginning,” she said afterward. “Don’t give her angles, so she doesn’t make me run.”
It was a plan that might have been cribbed from Ana Ivanovic, who beat Serena by going as big as possible, as early as possible, at the Australian Open this year. But it was perfectly suited to Muguruza’s style—a long-legged six-footer, her strength is hitting with power; her weakness, as she hinted, is retrieving. She knew she couldn’t play defense against Serena, and she never really did.
Of course, it’s one thing to have a game plan, and quite another to execute it against a 17-time Grand Slam champion. Muguruza was virtually flawless, especially with her returns and backhands, which seemed to be laser-guided to a spot about a foot in front of the baseline. Even when Williams was serving, she was on her heels. It’s rare to beat Serena, but it may be even rarer to break her five times in the process.