French Open 2016 Women's Final: Serena Williams vs. Garbine Muguruza Predictions

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2016

US player Serena Williams serves the ball to Netherlands' Kiki Bertens during their women's semi-final match at the Roland Garros 2016 French Tennis Open in Paris on June 3, 2016. / AFP / Thomas SAMSON        (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
THOMAS SAMSON/Getty Images

Serena Williams has the chance to make history on Saturday, as she chases her 22nd Grand Slam title against Garbine Muguruza in the final of the French Open. 

A win for the American would see her pull level with the great Steffi Graf, who finished her career with 22 major singles titles; only Margaret Court, with 25, has more. Williams has been in wonderful form in the run-up to this final too, although her opponent, Muguruza, could well be the future of the women’s game.

It's a can't-miss occasion when these two stars take to the Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros. Here is a look at the key details ahead of the match and how this clash between two tennis juggernauts is likely to pan out.

French Open 2016: Women's Final Details
Match(1) Serena Williams vs. (4) Garbine Muguruza
DateSaturday, June 4
Start Time2 p.m. (BST), 9 a.m (ET)
VenueCourt Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros
Various

Williams Closes in on Graf

As is typical for Williams, she’s teetered on the brink of elimination at moments in this tournament. Against Yulia Putintseva in the quarters, for example, the champion struggled to find her rhythm, going down a set and a break of serve. 

Williams has had to battle hard to get to this point.
Williams has had to battle hard to get to this point.Alastair Grant/Associated Press/Associated Press

But she found a way through, just as she’s done so frequently over the years. That unbending will to win was on show in her semi-final win over Kiki Bertens too; Williams wasn’t at her best, yet she still saved two set points in the first before going on to churn out yet another victory. 

You wouldn’t bet against her doing that again in Saturday’s showpiece either. As we can see here courtesy of Bleacher Report UK, when it comes to finals, Williams has an extraordinary record:

The last time she won a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in 2015, when she faced none other than Muguruza in the final. After that loss, the 22-year-old will be desperate for revenge, as she goes on the hunt for the first of what will probably be many Grand Slam crowns. 

Remarkably, Muguruza was close to elimination in Round 1, as she dropped the opening set of her match against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. But the setback seemed to jolt her into life, and since then the youngster has not dropped a set in the tournament.

Here’s the moment that she booked her spot in the final: 

There’s a maturity about Muguruza’s game that will stand her in excellent stead here too. As Live Tennis noted, she executed a savvy tactical plan in her semi-final win over Samantha Stosur:

She’ll have to do so again here and will take some encouragement coming into this one. As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times noted, Williams did reveal she’s been struggling with an adductor injury. That’s something that could hamper her against a player as intense as Muguruza.

Muguruza will need to be ruthless to win this one.
Muguruza will need to be ruthless to win this one.Michel Euler/Associated Press

The youngster will have to be canny too. With the courts slower this week due to heavy rain, a lot of the players have been utilising drop shots to brilliant effect; if Williams isn’t fully fit and is feeling the strain of another long tournament, that could be a useful tool for Muguruza. Plus, as good as she is from the back of the court, prolonged trading with Williams isn't likely to end well.

As noted by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, drawing the champion to the net could also exploit the one major weakness of her game: 

There are plenty of reasons why Muguruza could get over the line here. She’s improved on clay, she’s had an easier run to the final, and her younger legs will have a lot more in the tank at the end of two punishing weeks. She beat Williams emphatically at Roland Garros before too, winning 6-2, 6-2 in 2014.

Williams has an aura, and when it comes to clutch moments, nobody in the history of the game is better than her at coming up with decisive shots. But Muguruza has been in serene form coming into this final, and at the end of what’ll be a pulsating scrap, her youthful exuberance will overcome the great will of the 2015 champion.

Prediction: Muguruza wins in three sets.

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