Tennis

So easy for Muguruza against Sharapova

2016 champion sets up semi-final clash with top seed Halep

Garbine Muguruza thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-1 to reach the French Open semi-finals yesterday, condemning the Russian to her worst Grand Slam defeat in more than six years.

The Spanish third seed, who was the champion in Paris in 2016, will face top seed Simona Halep, who beat two-time Major winner Angelique Kerber 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-2 for a place in Saturday's final.

Sharapova, playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, suffered her most one-sided defeat at the Slams since a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the 2012 Australian Open final.

"I'm very pleased to be in another final in Paris," said Muguruza, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

"I was up against a great player, so I had to make sure I brought my best tennis."

Sharapova, who missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and last year after she was refused a wild card, was broken six times, committed 27 unforced errors and won just five points on her own serve in the second set.

It was just her fifth loss in 25 Grand Slam quarter-finals.

Muguruza pounced on an error-plagued Sharapova start to lead 4-0 with a double break.

I was up against a great player, so I had to make sure I brought my best tennis. Garbine Muguruza, after thrashing Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals

Sharapova never recovered from serving up three double faults in the first game.

By the end of the first set, the five-time Major winner had won just eight points against the Muguruza serve and failed to carve out a single break-point.

Muguruza hit only five winners in the opener which was more than enough against the erratic Russian, who reached the quarter-finals for the first time in three years when old rival Serena Williams handed her an injury-enforced walkover.

Sharapova, 31, was broken in the opening game of the second set which she immediately retrieved.

However, it was just a brief respite. The 24-year-old Wimbledon champion Muguruza claimed a quick double break for 4-1, backed up by a hold for 5-1.

It was all over in the next game when Sharapova sent another backhand out wide.

"To have had the victories that I have had, to have the results that I have, obviously moving a step in the right direction," said Sharapova, who had made the last eight in Madrid and semis in Rome in the run-up to Paris.

"But today was certainly not one of those steps."

For world No. 1 Halep, it was the right step as she won a bruising quarter-final against Kerber to book a place against Muguruza.

Halep started slowly, spraying shots wide as she lost the first four games against the No. 12 seed, who hit her early groundstrokes with lethal accuracy.

But the Romanian clawed her way back into the contest, winning three straight games as both players struggled to hold on to their serves in a monster opening set that swung one way and then the next.

ONSLAUGHT

Kerber eventually prevailed in a tie-break, but Halep came out all guns blazing in the second, firing baseline bullets at her opponent, who tried to cling on against the onslaught.

But, by the third set, Halep had broken down the German's defences - and her resolve.

"It's always a tough match when I play against her. After the first set I just stayed strong and didn't give up," Halep told the Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd in a post-match interview.

"I missed a lot in the beginning. I tried to do too much. I changed the tactics a bit and it worked."

In the other semi-final, US Open champion Sloane Stephens will take on fellow American Madison Keys today in a repeat of the 2017 final at Flushing Meadows. - AFP, REUTERS

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