It is not unreasonable to speculate that Maria Sharapova indulged in a loud celebration of Serena Williams's crushing loss to the world number 35, Garbine Muguruza, in the second round of this French Open. They are not close, the Russian and the American, whom she has not managed to beat since 2004.
For an hour or so yesterday, however, the schadenfreude resided with the chastened world number one back in Miami, as the lean-limbed young Spanish upstart looked like adding Sharapova to her short but impressive hit list of celebrity take-downs.
She was poised to embarrass the faltering seventh seed after a first-set blitz of powerful, confident hitting from all angles, but the grind got to her.
Sharapova, as she has done now in her past 18 three-setters on clay (and 25 of 26 overall), was too strong of mind and body over the longer distance, taking a tick over two hours to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
So the tournament gets the glamour semi-final it craved: Sharapova, thrashed by Williams in last year's final, against the rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who had a marginally tougher time of it on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
She held off the spirited challenge of another Spaniard, the 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, to win 7-6, 2-6, 7-5 in two hours and 22 minutes, and bootleg seats on Court Philippe Chatrier for their match tomorrow will sell like those along the catwalk in Milan.
Muguruza, in her first slam quarter-final and with nothing to lose, came close to securing a footnote in the game’s history as the first player to beat both Sharapova and Williams in the same slam. However, Muguruza’s tennis disintegrated into shards of overcooked groundstrokes as the fist-pumping diva at the other end again dipped into her considerable reserves of determination.
On Lenglen shortly afterwards, Bouchard hit a double fault on match point but repaired the damage with a stunning cross-court backhand and tried again.
As with Muguruza, Suarez Navarro left the stage with a limp, netted backhand, struck single-handed. Both are interesting players with big games. If they are to break through when it matters, though, they will have to cope with the pressure of expectation. Bouchard has taken just 10 games off Sharapova in 30, baggage that will be hard to carry into the first semi-final. But, like Muguruza, she has nothing to lose.
Sharapova had difficulty later understanding a tweet by Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, and swore she had no idea who she was. The tweet was simple and clever – “Sharapova is like a tea bag. Put her into hot water, and ul find out how strong she is” – but the player looked nonplussed.
And when Sharapova was reminded of a photo of her with Bouchard as a young girl, currently hitting the airwaves on Twitter, she struggled to recall the moment.
“My first memory? Probably when she was playing the juniors. I don’t know how many years that was ago. I think when she received a wildcard into a tournament in Canada.” Sharapova does tennis. She is not big on jokes and sentiment. – Guardian Service