Muguruza downplays title hopes

Former champion injury-free for Paris after 'tricky' lead-up preparations

Garbine Muguruza, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Champions sometimes have to rely on their instincts.

They’ve been to the very top, lifted the most prestigious prizes and know how to grow into a Grand Slam. Garbine Muguruza is no different.

The 2016 Roland-Garros champion is playing catch-up, having suffered a left thigh injury that hampered her clay-court campaign, but is relishing a return to the terre battue in Paris.

“Very happy to be back in Paris. Got a lot of good memories here,” the 12th seed said. “This is a tournament I love, so let’s see how well I can play.”

The 27-year-old, about to begin her ninth successive campaign at Roland-Garros, opens against world No.81 Marta Kostyuk, but isn’t entertaining any talk of being a contender.

“I don’t consider myself one of the favourites. I feel I have to be humble, haven’t played many matches on clay,” she said. “I have to take the rhythm of step by step. I like the surface a lot, but I don’t see myself at that level." 

Garbine Muguruza, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Philippe Montigny/FFT

The world No.13 sustained a left thigh injury on the clay in Charleston last month and only returned to competitive action in Madrid. Elina Svitolina halted the Spaniard in the third round, but Muguruza remains optimistic she can recall her previous Parisian experiences.

“My preparation has been a bit tricky. Physically I’m catching up a bit to get well prepared,” the two-time major winner said.

“It’s still a process, I’ve got to use all my experience. I feel matches will be good for my body, to help me get the rhythm back. Sometimes you can train so much and feel like you’re not really ready until you go out there and perform.”

It will be a first meeting between Muguruza and the Ukrainian Kostyuk, not that the Spaniard was aware.

“I didn’t know until you said, but I was looking forward to any opponent. Clay court is a different, unique surface. So I’ll have to play the right way. Training as hard as I can, doing the homework and hoping to be ready.”

Muguruza has become somewhat of an expert on Instagram with ‘reels’ lighting up her timeline, however, she means business and is not going to get distracted this fortnight.

“I really like using my Instagram when I feel the moment. Now it’s time to focus on here,” insisted the world No.13. “Maybe after, maybe more the summer time. Right now, I’m just thinking about this yellow ball.”

There was a joyous reunion for Muguruza just prior to her press conference. Compatriot and friend Carla Suarez Navarro is back in Paris for one final Roland-Garros having gallantly recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer.

“I just saw her, we had a quick chat. She didn’t know if she was going to come right until the last minute and I was pushing her ‘Carla let’s go! You don’t don’t have any expectations, it’s just incredible you’re here'," said Muguruza, who reached the doubles semi-finals alongside Suarez Navarro in 2014.

“It was fun to see her. It’s sad it’s the last time she’s going to play here. We have great memories, playing doubles. We have a very nice relationship, for many years. I’m just happy she’s here and I’m very inspired.”

Garbine Muguruza, Roland Garros, media day© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT