Garbine Muguruza could face another severe test on her quest to defend the French Open title, with the fourth seed taking on the 27th seed, and last year’s quarterfinalist, Yulia Putintseva in the third round.
The two have only met once before, with Muguruza prevailing 6-2, 7-6 in Beijing last year, though with the Spaniard not having a great build up into the tournament and Putintseva’s evident strong belief in herself, this could be a tight encounter with a slight upset a possibility.
The winner of this match will face Shelby Rogers or 13th seed Kristina Mladenovic in the fourth round.
So far in Paris
Muguruza and Putintseva have had similar paths to this stage, with a fairly comfortable opening encounter before a greater test in the second round.
One of the more interesting first round encounters saw Muguruza pitted against another former French Open champion, Francesca Schiavone, and though many thought it could be tight the Spaniard impressed with a straight sets victory. The fourth seed then faced a huge challenge in the second round against Anett Kontaveit, who beat Muguruza in Stuttgart in April, though the defending champion put in a composed performance to win from a set down; she has been playing some of her best tennis of the year in Paris, and will be tough to beat.
Putintseva is an extremely stubborn opponent on court, known for being emotional and never giving up, though she was fairly relaxed in her first round encounter as she breezed past wildcard Myrtille Georges for the loss of just three games. Things were a little tougher in the second round, with the 27th seed being handed a breadstick in the second set, though she eventually saw off Johanna Larsson in three sets; the Kazakh will be confident after two good wins and her run last year, and will be difficult to break down.
One factor which helps Muguruza, the favorite for this encounter, is that she is a lot taller than Putintseva and has a lot more power, meaning she will look to dictate rallies from the very beginning and will likely have at least some success with that. However, though the fourth seed can be very good, she can be erratic and extremely error prone as she generally has been since her triumph in Paris last year; she has not reached a final since. Muguruza cannot afford too many mistakes against such a determined opponent.
Though Putintseva does not have Muguruza’s raw power, she is still fairly powerful despite her stature, and will also look to be aggressive. She must be careful, however, of being over-aggressive and cannot afford to get to frustrated as this could cause her to become error prone. However, one advantage for the Kazakh is that she is arguably a better mover than the Spaniard, so it will not be a surprise if she tries to open up the court by bringing Muguruza in with drop shots and volleys.
This could undoubtedly be one of the most interesting and exciting matches of the day, with both women keen to attack and dictate play. Though she can be erratic, Muguruza has impressed in Paris so far and should be able to keep her title defense going. However, Putintseva won’t make life easy, and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if she could pull off a slight upset.
Prediction: Garbine Muguruza in three sets