Garbine Muguruza and Maria Sharapova both enter their Roland Garros quarter-final on Wednesday with lots of momentum from strong opening weeks in Paris but legends Martina Navratilova and Lindsay Davenport give the edge to the Spaniard in this blockbuster showdown.
The Barcelona-based Muguruza, a title winner at the French Open in 2016, is seeded No. 3 this fortnight, and has shown sizzling form so far, making the quarters without dropping a set (also benefitted from an early retirement from an injured Lesia Tsurenko in the fourth round).
The Russian, who returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April last year, is looking to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final since Wimbledon 2015.
Sharapova leads Muguruza 3-0 head-to-head but they haven’t met since 2014. The world No. 3 has won two majors since then.
Asked who she favours in this match-up, Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, said: “You have to give an edge to Garbine, having won here a couple of years ago, a lot younger, fresher legs, more matches, all that stuff.
“But Maria has won here twice, so she clearly knows how to play on it and has her best record of all the Slams here, even though she said she can’t play on clay, go figure.”
Ex-world No. 1 and three-time major winner Davenport, who is also the coach of semi-finalist Madison Keys, agrees with Navratilova.
“I’ve probably been the most impressed, of all the players, with Muguruza so far,” said Davenport.
“She’s kind of sailed through, she’s looked really good, she’s won here before, she’s obviously comfortable playing here and I think she’s a better athlete than Sharapova.
“So then I think you have to give the edge to Muguruza in a lot of ways. It’s hard to give a player an edge over Sharapova when Sharapova has dominated the head-to-head and is so strong mentally.
“But I think Garbine has looked in a good place here, and a lot of times you can tell just looking at her and her eyes during a match where she is, and I think she looks good.”
The other quarter-final of the day will see world No. 1 Simona Halep taken on two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.
Halep is a two-time runner-up in Paris and lost her third Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, to Caroline Wozniacki. The Romanian is looking to finally clinch a maiden major title and has also been in fine form this fortnight.
“I would think that she is the person putting the most pressure on herself, and maybe Romania, because they obviously want to see a champion,” Davenport said of Halep, who needs to reach at least the semis to have a chance of holding onto her No. 1 ranking.
“You have to watch Simona most closely in the bigger matches on the biggest occasions. And a lot of times you can look to her body language, either how she’s treating Darren (Cahill her coach), or treating her box, or how she’s treating herself, goes a long way to seeing how much stress she feels she’s under and I think that’s going to be her biggest thing the next few matches as it gets more and more pressure, bigger stakes, most likely better opponents.
“I like watching her between points, and kind of the communication and the vibes she’s kind of giving off tells a lot.”
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