Pandemic Changed Muguruza’s Way Of Thinking

Garbiñe Muguruza (photo: Vince Caligiuri/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

This week’s Melbourne Summer Series of tournaments – including three WTA 500-series events taking place simultaneously at Melbourne Park, site of next week’s Australian Open – has provided an unusual circumstance for many players, like Garbiñe Muguruza: playing the week before a Grand Slam tournament.

The World No. 15 from Spain, who is seeded sixth in the Yarra Valley Classic, normally does not compete the week before a major. However, because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the start of this year’s Australian Open was pushed back by three weeks – and for some, this lead-in week of tournaments is their first taste of WTA competition this year.

Muguruza was asked Wednesday following her 6-1, 6-2 third-round victory over Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to assess how she is coping with playing back-to-back matches all the while trying to find her rhythm as she prepares for the Australian Open.

“I feel like we have to kind of adapt this year all the time,” said Muguruza, who is 4-1 on the young season and won two of her three matches last month in the WTA season-opening tournament in Abu Dhabi. “I feel like I have to stop thinking what I was doing before and just taking the opportunity this year because it’s definitely not going to be the same. And yes, probably in the past I would rather get ready and prepare in a different way, but I did that before. Luckily, I had two weeks to prepare, so I was looking forward to competing. Now, no matter if next week there is a Grand Slam, I feel like it’s going to help me.

“I think I did the work already, so I just have to go out and there and just try to put it in the match.”

Muguruza has dropped just five games in her first two matches in Melbourne. Her next match is a Friday quarterfinal tussle with World No. 4 Sofia Kenin, the second seed in the Yarra Valley Classic and the reigning Australian Open champion. While many will look at it merely as a rematch between the two 2020 AO finalists – won by Kenin 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 – Muguruza is excited by the possibilities.

“It’s a good match to play,” she said. “We played exactly almost one year ago, right? So, it was a tough match. It was a special match, also, being a final.

“Looking forward to facing her again, and try to turn the score around. But yeah, excited because it was a match that I think I played – we both played well and she ended up getting her opportunities, and I’m looking forward to tracing those players again, especially the top players.”

Muguruza was asked if there’s anything she took from that match – anything she learned – that she’ll take into her rematch with Kenin, which could turn the result in her favor. Kenin leads their career head-to-head 2-0, which also includes a 2019 victory in Beijing in addition to the 2020 Melbourne final.

“I mean, yeah. I watched that match and I think that I have now more things to – I know her a little better because we played already twice. So, that’s normal,” Muguruza suggested. “But yeah, I’m just looking forward in general just to play again these top players, to get more matches. Yeah, why not play a good player?”

Yastremska’s appeal to CAS dismissed

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) reported Wednesday that World No. 29 Dayana Yastremska‘s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to lift her provisional suspension imposed by the Chair of the Independent Tribunal has been dismissed.

Yastremska, 20, from Ukraine, has been in quarantine in Melbourne while awaiting the appeal of her January 7 suspension. She was given a provisional suspension under Article 8.3.1(c) of the 2020 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, after an out-of-competition urine sample on Nov. 24, 2020 was found to contain mesterolone metabolite, which is a non-specified substance prohibited under pressure category S1 of the 2020 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List, and therefore is also prohibited under the Programme.

Afterward, Yastremska posted a statement on her social media platforms:

Carlos Alcaraz: Biggest win of his life!

Imagine you’re 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and you’ve just emerged from isolation in a strict quarantine for 15 days with no practice. Then, in your second match at the ATP 250 Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne, you beat World No. 14 and top seed David Goffin, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round … believe it. For Alcaraz, it was his first Top 15 win and the first time he’s won back-to-back ATP main draw matches.

The 2020 Newcomer of the Year Alcaraz called his achievement “a very good match.” He said: “I always want to play these kinds of matches against great players like Goffin. Yeah, I’m very happy with this win today, and looking forward to the next round.”

Here’s what Goffin said afterward: “The guy played unbelievable. He’s such a young player, but super talented already. He hit the ball really hard, and today was a tough match. He played really well. He was really aggressive.”

When Goffin was asked how he would judge Alcaraz’s future, the Belgian No. 1 said: “He just killed me, so I would say he’s good (smiling). … He had nothing to lose today. He qualified for his first Grand Slam. He’s under 18. He’s hitting the ball unbelievable.”

The 146th-ranked Alcaraz is now 5-0 in all levels. His round opponent is No. 83 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil.

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Jamie Murray: Back with a win

Andy Murray may be MIA from Melbourne this year, but his brother Jamie isn’t and on Wednesday he began 2021 reunited with his former doubles mate Bruno Soares for a victory to reach the quarterfinals of the Great Ocean Road Open.

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Former Italian great Roberta Vinci will be a part of Eurosport Italy‘s broadcast coverage of the Australian Open.

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