Heading into a new season can be the perfect tonic for a tennis player. The previous campaign might have been halted by injury, culminated in a series of disappointing results or tarnished by a lack of confidence. Well, the Australian Open presented the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and Garbine Muguruza grabbed that chance.
Garbiñe Muguruza, back for more
The two-time Grand Slam champion re-established her status in Melbourne.
The Roland-Garros 2016 champion headed down under unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014, having seen her ranking dip just outside the Top 30. No one expects the Spaniard, possessing such an effective and powerful game, to be outside of major contention. The two-time Grand Slam champion, reunited with compatriot Conchita Martinez, who guided Muguruza to Wimbledon glory in 2017, incrementally re-established her status in Melbourne.
Muguruza, 26, dispatched four seeded players en route to the final, her first at the Australian Open. The sizzling straight sets semi-final triumph over Simona Halep demonstrated a player well and truly back on the major stage. American prodigy Sofia Kenin edged out Muguruza’s dreams of a maiden hard court Slam in the captivating three-set finale, but the fortnight down under illustrated the hunger, passion and perspective has returned.
“Right now, it's tough to be happy, although it has been an incredible tournament. You lose a final, but you got to make it to the final to be able to win or lose, said Muguruza, having held back the tears in an emotional runners-up speech. I don't analyse too much. Really, start of the year, first day I was almost in the locker room. I lost first set in, like, 10 minutes. I also have to don't be too bad on myself, and value that it paid off.
I try to have a good perspective and not be too dramatic. Okay, you lost the match, was important one. But, hey, I'm here. I gave myself a chance to be in a final. You realise that, and you calm down a little bit.”
I'm in a good process
Back in the Top 20, rising to world No.16 off the back of that final showing, Muguruza is poised to push for the top titles once again in 2020. Hard yards in pre-season, alongside an almighty adventure climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, provided the platform for the Muguruza resurgence. Martinez has also reinstalled the Spaniard’s belief on court and forward-thinking mentality.
“I think I'm in a good process. I think I felt my game much better than before. I think I got to keep it that way, keep working physically. These events are really long, so you got to be strong, said Muguruza, hoping to use her Melbourne exploits as a springboard this season. I have to just keep improving to be able to go far in the tournaments because then is when you face these top players. You get a feel of where your game has to go, what do I have to improve. These are the matches that really give you information about where I am right now.
I don't think all the time about consistency. It's something very important. I'm just going to a tournament, see how far I can go. I think it's a great start of the year, for sure. I get very motivated also in the Grand Slams because that's where you get very excited.”
Next Grand Slam on the calendar: Roland-Garros 2020…
The former world No.1, seeking that consistency to peak in the marquee events, is determined to keep focusing forward and to not rely on her past achievements.
“I don't think at all about the previous years - even the good ones or the bad ones. I feel like, ‘What for?’ I got the best out of it, good or bad. I just started a new year. I have a new team. That's it, stated the revitalised Spaniard after the Australian Open final. I think just right now it's tough to have a big smile, though I'm smiling inside.”
🤜🏽🎾🤛🏽— Conchita Martínez (@conchitamartinz) December 6, 2019
We love tennis. pic.twitter.com/g99UJ1GuSL
Clearly thriving alongside Conchita, especially with expectations erased, the enjoyment is back in Muguruza’s game. The ruthless streak fans previously hailed on social media as “Muguruthless” returned at Melbourne Park.
If the world No.16 can keep up the momentum through the ‘sunshine swing’ and over to the clay campaign, Muguruza is going to be a serious title contender back on the terre battue of Roland-Garros.