Garbine Muguruza takes on Kristina Mladenovic in one of the most exciting and intriguing match-ups in the round of 16.
(4) Garbine Muguruza [No.5] vs (13) Kristina Mladenovic [No.14]
Overview: Coming into the French Open with an injury that forced her to retire in her semifinal against Elina Svitolina in Rome, Garbine Muguruza definitely wasn’t coming into the Grand Slam as a favourite. However, the defending champion has played some great tennis during the first three rounds. Fighting off the occasional brilliance of Francesca Schiavone in the first round, she had a tougher test in Anett Kontaveit, coming from a set down to beat Kontaveit at her own game with her dogged defence and offence. Facing Yulia Putintseva in the third round, the Spaniard fell behind as Putintseva broke for a 3-1 lead. Muguruza broke back and was in a position to serve for the set, however Putintseva capitalised on Muguruza’s nerves to force the set into extra time. The World No.5 managed to show her dominance from then on, winning eight of the next ten games to book her fourth round spot.
Next up for Muguruza is definitely her toughest opponent so far, Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman is probably the most in-form player on the tour; starting the year off with a dismal Australian swing, she rebounded back nicely with a first WTA title in St.Petersburg. Although she has not won a title since, she has made three finals so far, in Acapulco, Stuttgart and Madrid. However, when Mladenovic fell 0-3 down to Jennifer Brady in the first round and took a medical time-out, it seemed like Mladenovic was probably going to retire, even close to tears. The fighting spirit of Mladenovic shone through though – gritting her way through to a 3-6 6-3 9-7 victory. The World No.14 seemed better in a “why you say forza” straight sets win over Sara Errani, but once again went overtime in an epic match over Shelby Rogers. Mladenovic came from 2-5 down in the decider to win the match 8-6, another match where we could see her fighting qualities.
Head to head: Mladenovic won their only meeting, 7-6(4) 7-6(6) in 2015 on clay at Marrakech.
Thoughts: In Kiki’s defence, she has beaten Muguruza before, however her not-100%-back has resulted in her serve being much slower. Muguruza can certainly take advantage of that, and she’ll look to attack the Frenchwoman’s backhand who has not been the best this week. The match which Muguruza struggled in was actually against Putintseva, who is a dogged defender and Mladenovic can’t do that obviously with her back injury, and with playing overtime twice so far, I don’t think she’ll be at her best today. Tough one to decide but Muguruza for the win.