Muguruza through to third straight quarter-final
Garbine Muguruza's love-affair with Paris has continued; the fourth seed swept aside former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova to advance to the last eight yet again at Roland-Garros.
The key to moving forward is forgetting the past. Or so says Garbine Muguruza.
The No.4 seed booked her place in the Roland-Garros quarter-final for the third year in succession, dispatching 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-4 in thoroughly convincing fashion. The ultra-aggressive performance was one of her best of the season and it appears a short-term memory is driving her success in Paris.
“Typically when I start a new tournament,” she explained, “I forget about everything I have done before or everything I have done the previous year. The beginning of the year was tough, starting from scratch after the crazy end of the previous season wasn't easy. When you start a new year, you have to start from scratch.”
Muguruza announced herself with a memorable run to the Wimbledon final last July before losing four of the next six matches she contested. This season, her results have been a mixed bag of expected wins and damaging defeats.
A ruthless Muguruza performance, therefore, had been a long time coming, but as she hit through Kuznetsova on Philippe-Chatrier Court it appeared worth the wait.
“I think that when your opponent plays at a top level, you have to be at the same level or better, and that's what I had in mind,” she said. “I knew she was a very strong opponent. I knew I would have to be resilient and play my top level, and this is what could make me win the match. And it was a great match.”
The duo had met once before today, with Kuznetsova emerging the victor in a tight three-set contest in Madrid last year. For the Russian, tipped by many to make a deep run here in Paris, the gameplan was simple: “I just want to go out there and play my game,” she explained before the match. The only problem being, Muguruza didn’t give her a chance to do so.
"It's me – it’s the way I prepare matches. When I win I analyse why. When I lose I analyse why. And therefore, I have become a better player, generally speaking."
The contrasting styles made for an absorbing encounter. It was heavyweight boxer versus street fighter - Muguruza throwing the big punches and Kuznetsova, with an array of shots at her disposal, happy to brawl.
The opening seven games went on serve and then Muguruza made her move, crawling all over a Kuznetsova second serve, walloping a backhand winner crosscourt and scoring the crucial break for a 5-3 lead. She followed with a hold, slamming down another winner - one of 37 she hit in the match - to close out the opening set.
For Muguruza, the devil is in the detail. “I think the one thing that I have really improved is not just one type of shot,” she said. “It's me, generally speaking. It's me – it’s the way I prepare matches. When I win I analyse why. When I lose I analyse why. And therefore, I have become a better player, generally speaking.”
Well, she had clearly done her homework on Kuznetsova, who looked vulnerable behind her second serve throughout the match. Muguruza repeatedly stepped in when the Russian missed her first serve, and a crushed forehand return down-the-line gave her a break for a 3-1 lead in the second set.
Muguruza then stumbled slightly, missing the chance to go a double break up after fluffing an overhead into the net when it seemed harder to miss; Kuznetsova came storming back to level the set at 4-4.
But the day belonged to Muguruza; she regained her composure to reel off the last two games before finally converting on her fifth match point.
A cheer reverberated around the historic stadium as a smiling Muguruza raised her arms to the sky. If the No.4 seed continues like this, it may not be the last celebration we see from her in Paris.