Henry Wancke | 9th Mar 2020 | 0
Melbourne | Magnificent Muguruza swats Svitolina
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Former World No 1 Garbiñe Muguruza swatted away any challenge presented by 5th seed Elina Svitolina, 6-1 6-2, to reach the 4th round of the Australian Open on Saturday, causing yet another upset on Day 5 following the departure of Karolina Pliskova earlier in the day.
Everything went quickly my way — yeah, I’ll take it. I managed to probably disturb her. I played a very good match. I managed to stop her, and took the match to my side, which I’m very happy about. Garbiñe Muguruza
Muguruza, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne in 2017, has struggled over the past couple of years and entered this year’s tournament unseeded despite being a two-time Grand Slam champion but is now showing her former form.
Despite being ‘bagelled’ by Shelby Rogers in her very first set of the tournament, she now finds herself in the Last 16 for just the 4th time in her career.
“The first day I didn’t feel well at all, but I never throw in the towel,” Muguruza admitted. “I’m in the fourth round because of a big fight.”
While Svitolina had been solid so far up until this point in the tournament, she had absolutely no answer to Muguruza’s astonishing polished performance.
The Spaniard, who has won both the French Open and Wimbledon, continued her perfect Grand Slam record against the Ukrainian, ousting her from a major for the 4th time in her career in an hour and 8 minutes.
“Everything went quickly my way — yeah, I’ll take it,” she said. “I managed to probably disturb her.”
Muguruza, though, came into the encounter with the odds stacked against her, with a 4-6 losing record against the 25-year-old and having posted just 1 victory from their 5 previous hard court meetings.
She dominated the opening set with an exemplary display of length hitting, winning it in 23 minutes, before out-manoeuvring her rival in the second.
“I played a very good match,” Muguruza said after the match. “I managed to stop her, and took the match to my side, which I’m very happy about.”
The Spaniard exerted pressure from the beginning, but passed up on 2 break points on Svitolina’s first service game.
Hitting an immaculate length, she nevertheless had Svitolina pinned back and regularly forced her to make awkward shots.
The pressure told in the 3rd game when she broke to love in the midst of a run that saw her win 13 of 14 points.
Another break followed as she closed out the opening set with a flourish.
Svitolina showed heart in the second set, but she was unable to get her game to click into gear or make any real impact.
The World No 5 showed her fighting spirit by scrapping out a 10-minute monster 5th game, in which she staved off 5 break points, but by this stage she had already slipped decisively behind.
Muguruza was working the ball around the court magnificently, and while her angles and depth remained impressive, it was 2 drop-shots that brought the break that carried her ahead in the second set.
Adding a second for insurance, she then served out successfully for the match, fending off the only 2 break points she faced all evening.
It was all over in just 67 minutes, Muguruza finishing with 31 winners and just 9 errors, and successful in 14 of her 16 trips to the net.
“I was very concentrated and focused on what I had to do. I’ll take it,” Muguruza said when asked to assess the performance.
Zarina Diyas or Kiki Bertens, competing in the last match of Day 5, awaits for Muguruza as she aims for a second showing in the last 8 in Melbourne.
Muguruza is a big stage player and she has now sounded a warning to the rest of the women’s field that she is, once again, a contender for the title.
Under the lights at Rod Laver Arena, the Spaniard showed just how dangerous she can be to all comers.
The 26-year-old won the French Open in 2016, Wimbledon in 2017, ascended to World No 1 that same year, and had won 7 of her 9 singles matches in 2020 ahead of her bout with Svitolina.
After watching the level she attained on Saturday night, it appears she is once again honing her major-winning instincts.
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Former semi-finalist Elise Mertens scored a three-set victory over the returning American Cici Bellis, 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0.
The No 16 seed was 3 points from victory in the 2nd set tiebreak, leading 4-2 after coming from an earlier break down, but ultimately needed 6 more games and a final set to move back into the round of 16.
Having lost to Bellis in the pair’s lone meeting at the Dubai Tennis Championships in 2018, the Belgian needed just over 20 minutes to cruise to a one-set lead and was just as, if not more so, dominant in the decider to seal the victory in a minute short of two hours, ending the former World No 35’s stay at her first Slam in two years.
“She played really well – she’s coming back from injury, and she’s a big fighter,” Mertens said on-court after the match. “It was a hot day today, and I’m really happy that I pulled through.
“She runs pretty good, and she doesn’t miss a lot of balls, so it’s really tough to play her. I had to really step up my game in the third set, and also mentally be prepared for a battle.”
Mertens racked up a dozen aces in the match and lost a combined 5 points on serve across the first and third sets, and was the aggressor for the duration, as she more than doubled Bellis’ total of winners.
The World No 17 struck 38 winners to the American’s 16, and went 7-for-15 on break points converted, allowing Bellis just 2 looks at her serve in the early stages of the second set.
Halep and Mertens meet for the 3rd time in their careers, in a rematch of the final from the Qatar Total Open in Doha last February, which was won by Mertens in 3 sets for her biggest career title.
The two-time Slam champion, however, notched up 2 victories against the Belgian in the 2018 clay-court season, at the Mututa Madrid Open and French Open, both without the loss of a set.
“It’s going to be a really difficult one, but I’m happy that I’m in the fourth round already,” Mertens said. “I’m just going to look at it match-by-match.
“Every opponent is different, every day is different, but I’m going to give myself 100 percent.”