WASHINGTON, January 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
As Garbiñe Muguruza sat for her first virtual press conference of 2021 – it was also the first one hosted by the WTA in the new year on the eve of its first tournament, the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open, in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates – the World No. 15 from Spain was asked what she learned from playing during the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season that she hopes to take forward with her in her approach to a new season.
“I learned the fact that I cannot do my job – to be in competition, to be playing on big courts and having butterflies in my stomach,” Muguruza, 27, said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice Monday afternoon. Indeed, the resident of Geneva, Switzerland, thrives on the buzz that comes from playing on show courts around the world filled with fans applauding her achievements. The former No. 1 emphasized, “When you’re on the go, you don’t realize you miss it … but I also appreciated being home.”
De hiking en Monte Salève 🇨🇭🏔 pic.twitter.com/1ksZaKsAFg
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) October 24, 2020
Muguruza smiled often throughout her 20-minute chat with the virtual media as she answered questions in English and later in her native Spanish. She appeared to be in her comfort zone – interacting with others – and didn’t shy away from any questions that were asked.
“I felt great. I learned I didn’t miss tennis that much,” Muguruza said. “This was the first time I was home. It’s good I was able to do different things, explore different things and to be back when we can.”
A perusal of Muguruza’s Instagram page reveals a lot about the affable Spanish star’s life, both on the court and outside of tennis. Go beyond the baseline and you’ll learn that she enjoys scuba diving, cooking, horseback riding and skeet shooting.
“I love adventure. I’m an adventurer,” she said.
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) October 30, 2020
Two off-seasons ago, Muguruza pushed herself with a mind-clearing, life-changing experiencing in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on the African continent. Why Mount Kilimanjaro? “I wanted to have a challenge, a reachable challenge, because if I pick another one, I put myself in a risky, risky situation. But it was a very good experience. …. It was great to do it,” she said during a press conference at last year’s Australian Open.
More recently, Muguruza spent time after the 2020 season ended undergoing Civil Guard training in Mallorca, Spain. It’s something she said she always wanted to experience. Among the skills she learned first-hand was underwater rescue training.
“Sharing the opportunities and to learn what they do was such an experience. I loved it,” Muguruza said. “It was a dream I always wanted to do as a little kid. It was a great week. I learned a lot of different tasks.”
Meanwhile, Muguruza shared this confession: “On the personal side, I go wherever life takes me,” she said in a recently-published interview for the Spanish lifestyle magazine Mujerhoy.
Since her last on-court appearance, a third-round loss to Danielle Collins at Roland Garros three months ago, Muguruza began her off-season workouts in November and spent time in Mallorca, where she could be seen working out with her coach Conchita Martinez while hitting with longtime Spanish men’s start Feliciano Lopez.
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) December 4, 2020
It’s no surprise that among Muguruza’s goals are winning Grand Slam trophies – she’s already won Roland Garros (2016) and Wimbledon (2017), and last year reached the final of the Australian Open before losing to Sofia Kenin, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Looking back at the 2020 Australian Open, Muguruza said it’s tough to decide whether to look at the year’s first major with fondness or regret.
“I felt Sofia played amazing … I feel like I had it under control for a certain moment, then she came back,” Muguruza recalled. “I struggled to find my shots and my game to make another comeback. It’s a combination. I was dominating and then she turned things around and took her opportunity. It was a tough match.”
While Muguruza will get another shot at winning the Australian Open in Melbourne next month, first up is the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open, which begins main draw play on Wednesday. Seeded fifth in Kenin’s quarter of the upper half of the 64-player draw, Muguruza will face No. 50 Kristina Mladenovic of France in her first match of the new season. In the past year, Muguruza is 10-5 against Top 50 players while Mladenovic is 0-2 against Top 20 players.
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) December 2, 2020
Speaking of other goals, Muguruza said she would love to participate in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo – and, of course, win a medal. In the 2016 Rio Games, Muguruza was seeded third and lost to eventual gold medalist Monica Puig from Puerto Rico in the third round.
“I’m very excited for the Olympics. I was excited last year [before they were postponed] – I’m still excited for this year,” Muguruza said.“Yes, of course, I’m excited [to play mixed doubles with Rafael Nadal]. I’m always super looking forward to playing with Rafa. He’s one of the best players in history to play with. I think it would also be great to play doubles with Carla [Suárez Navarro] if she’s able to be back. I want to play all of the competitions.”
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) November 10, 2020
Four Top 10 players in Abu Dhabi main draw
The 64-player main draw of the first WTA tournament of 2021, the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open was revealed Monday evening. There are four Top 10 players featured in the WTA 500-series outdoor hard-court event, including World No. 4 Sofia Kenin, who is the top seed; No. 5 Elina Svitolina, No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka.
Kenin will face a qualifier in her first-round match; Svitolina will play Jessica Pegula (ranked 63rd); Pliskova drew No. 71 Sorana Cirstea and Sabalenka will oppose No. 49 Polona Hercog.
Welcome back. pic.twitter.com/4HMHykD9pD
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 4, 2021
World No. 15 Garbiñe Muguruza, seeded fifth, is one of seven Top 20 players and her first-round match up against No. 50 Kristina Mladenovic is one of the many intriguing early-round matches.
Among the remaining top eight seeds are sixth seed Elena Rybakina (ranked 19th), No. 7 Elise Mertens (ranked 20th) and No. 8 Marketa Vondrousova (ranked 21st).
World No. 256 Tena Lukas of Croatia, is top seed in the 64-player qualifying draw, which begins Tuesday.
Main draw play begins Wednesday morning and continues through Jan. 13 at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre. The winner will pocket $68,570 and 470 WTA Rankings points.
Main Draw in Abu Dhabi, where Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, and Aryna Sabalenka are the top seeds.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 4, 2021
Garin top seed in Delray Beach draw
World No. 22 Cristian Garin of Chile is the top seed in the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, an ATP 250-series outdoor hard-court event, which begins Thursday in Delray Beach, Fla. Garin is one of four Top 50 players in the 28-player draw that was released Monday evening.
American No. 1 John Isner (ranked 25th) is seeded second followed by No. 3 seed Adrian Mannarino of France (ranked 34th) and No. 4 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland (ranked 35th). Seeded fifth through eighth are: No. 5 Tommy Paul of the United States (ranked 52nd), No. 6 Sam Querrey of the U.S. (ranked 56th), No. 7 Pablo Andújar of Spain (ranked 59th) and No. 8 Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. (ranked 62nd).
The ATP Tour’s first North American hard-court event of the outdoor season is one of just 10 ATP Tour events in the United States. Main draw play begins Jan. 7 and continues through Jan. 14. The winner will earn $30,840 plus 250 ATP Rankings points.
ATP Qualifying singles draw: pic.twitter.com/07lDyGByAf
— Delray Beach Open (@DelrayBeachOpen) January 4, 2021
Why are there so many withdrawals from Antalya and Delray Beach?
With the 2021 ATP season beginning this week in Antalya, Turkey, and Delray Beach, Fla., it’s been hard not to notice Tennis Twitter lighting up with what seems daily – if not hourly – reports of players withdrawing from both tournaments. When Andy Murray‘s announcement that he was withdrawing from the Delray Beach Open for non-injury related reasons, it was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, among those who have pulled out of Delray Beach include Canadians Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil (ranked 61st), No. 82 Federico Delbonis of Argentina and No. 94 Mikael Ymer of Sweden. The World No. 14 Raonic was slated to be the top seed in Delray Beach. Among the missing in Antalya will be No. 24 Borna Coric of Croatia, No. 28 Benoit Paire of France and No. 37 Jannik Sinner from Italy.
The upside to all of the withdrawals is that many who originally entered as alternates or anticipated playing in the qualifying tournament have been bumped up to the main draw.
Major reason why many withdrew from Antalya/Delray Beach
☝️If players have close contact to a person that gets tested positive at tournaments a 10-day-quarantine will be required.
“Not worth the risk regarding I could miss the flight to Melbourne”, Koepfer told me.
— Jannik Schneider (@schnejan) January 3, 2021
Starting 2021 with a bit of tennis aggro
🗣 Ion Tiriac: “If she had a little decency, she would retire!”
Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian has responded to comments about the 23-time Grand Slam champion…
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 4, 2021
What they’re sharing on social media
Perfect Match. Me and my new Audi Q5 ❤️
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) January 4, 2021
The last word …
Happy New Year, tennis twitter. Here’s hoping 2021 brings you the resilience of Rafa, the invincibility of Serena, the precision of Djokovic, the grace of Federer, the quiet confidence of Osaka, the youthful energy of Gauff…and the safety net of Wimbledon.
— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) December 31, 2020