First things first: Garbine Muguruza is really good on clay. The Advanced Baseline ratings have the six-foot 20-year old from Barcelona ranked 24th in the world on the surface. From the start, she was going to provide pretty strong resistance for defending French Open champion Serena Williams. She's got powerful ground strokes and good movement for her size; she's good and getting better.
Advanced Baseline gave Muguruza a decent 19-percent chance of beating Williams on Wednesday in Paris, slightly better odds than Kristina Mladenovic had of beating Australian Open champion Li Na in the first round (18 percent). So the outcome itself -- Muguruza over Williams -- isn't as surprising as, say, Lukas Rosol beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012.
That said, Muguruza dominated Williams in a way you almost never see, handing the 17-time slam champion a humiliating 6-2, 6-2 defeat in just 64 minutes. She pinned Williams behind the baseline, she handcuffed Williams with powerful, repetitive down-the-middle ground strokes while never losing her nerve. Instead of trying to outslug Williams with winners, she simply tried to limit Williams' movement and power. And it worked. Wow, did it work.
Again, this wasn't an out-of-nowhere result. In terms of AB clay rankings, Muguruza is now the highest-ranked player in her portion of the draw; she and 16-seed Sabine Lisicki (25th on clay) are now the favorites to face Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. Odd circumstances: two Serena conquerors (Lisicki took Williams down on her way to the Wimbledon finals in 2013) fighting to take on the one player in the field Maria Sharapova probably can't beat on clay.
Of course, now Muguruza will be playing with the weight of expectations. We'll see how that impacts her game:
New Sugarpova flavor: Gleeful— Vito Ellison (@VitoEllison) May 28, 2014
This was already a wide-open draw. With Williams and Sharapova in one quarter, Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep in another, and Victoria Azarenka out with injury, we were already assured of only two of the top five clay-courters in the world reaching the semifinals. Li Na's loss assures us of no more than two of six, and Williams' loss now takes out the top dog. In terms of AB rankings, the most likely semifinals are now Sharapova vs. No. 14 seed Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 10 Sara Errani vs. No. 11 Ivanovic. Players like Halep, Ivanovic, Suarez Navarro, or, hell, Muguruza may never have a better chance of taking the French Open title (or in Ivanovic's case, another one). Who handles this pressure best?
This was a day to forget for the Williams family. Venus took the first set from teenager Anna Schmiedlova before dropping the final two, and Serena got smoked about an hour later. Instead of yet another Venus-Serena battle in the third round, we're getting Schmiedlova-Muguruza. The future of the women's game might be better off for this, but in the present tense, we were pretty clearly reminded that neither Williams sister will be around forever.