PARIS • Garbine Muguruza won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open yesterday by defeating top seed and defending champion Serena Williams in the final.
Twelve years younger than the American at 22, and playing in the first clay-court final of her career, the Venezuelan-born Spanish tennis player upset the odds to win 7-5, 6-4.
She is the first Spanish woman to win a Grand Slam title since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in Paris in 1998 and she is the third straight first-time Grand Slam winner after Flavia Pennetta at last year's US Open and Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open.
"I am so excited to play the final of a Grand Slam against one of the best-ever players. It's the perfect final and I am so happy," she said. "Serena is a very powerful player and I just tried to fight as hard as I can."
For Williams, it was a second straight loss in a Grand Slam final and it wrecked her hopes once again of winning a 22nd Grand Slam title to draw level with Steffi Graf for the most wins in the Open era, since 1968.
She will now turn her focus on Wimbledon where she will be the defending champion and a six-time former winner.
Fourth seed Muguruza breezed through the draw, losing just one set, in her opening match. In contrast, Williams struggled in the quarter- and semi-finals amid talk of an injury or illness.
But the American got the final under way with a love service game.
Muguruza replied in kind and had to battle hard to level at 2-2, saving two break points along the way, but she then grabbed the first break of the final thanks to a loose game from Williams, culminating in a double fault.
Muguruza, who lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final last year, moved 4-2 ahead, but she lost her range two games later to allow the American to level the score.
The tall Spaniard was matching Williams for power and, when the title-holder opened the 11th game with a double fault, she seized the opportunity to apply pressure.
Her tactics paid off, with Williams failing to cope with a series of explosive baseline groundstrokes.
Muguruza's second break of the final allowed her to serve for the set and she staved off two break points along the way.
A top-quality first set took 56 minutes with the Spaniard winning 41 points to 40 for Williams, underlining the closeness of the contest.
Muguruza maintained her level of play and composure to start the second set with a third break of serve, but she then struggled on her own serve, coughing up a seventh double fault to hand back the advantage.
Williams, though, was struggling and this time it was the quality of her opponent's play rather than her own misgivings that were responsible for her struggles.
Muguruza made it three straight breaks of serve in the next game and moved into a 3-1 lead. The American dug deep to get back to 3-2, sparking a scream of defiance from a player who had been in 26 Grand Slam finals dating back to 1999 and lost just five of them.
But Muguruza was solid on her serve despite the occasional double fault and the Spaniard went 4-2 and then 5-3 up. Williams saved four match points in the next game to stay alive, but her opponent stayed calm to serve out the biggest win of her fledgling career.