Shenzhen | Muguruza motors into quarters
© Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images
After the departure of top seeds, Belinda Bencic and Aryna Sabalenka, on Tuesday, the draw has opened up for Spain’s two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza, who was Wednesday’s first winner at the Shenzhen Open in south China.
My goal is to play as many matches as I can, so I'm looking forward to my next match and to keep advancing in the tournament, Garbiñe Muguruza
The No 6 seed scored an impressive 6-1 7-6(2) win over American Shelby Rogers to move safely through to the quarter-finals, notching up consecutive wins at a WTA event for the first time since last year’s French Open, where she reached the fourth round.
“I think she started to play better, and the match was more equal,” Muguruza assessed. “I was happy that at the end in the tiebreak, where it was 50-50, and that I could win the match.
“Every match is very important and it’s great to start the year here and get as many matches as possible. Every tournament is a challenge, and I’m happy to keep playing.”
Muguruza, a former World No 1 who has slumped to No 35 in the rankings, is looking to recover her form in 2020 and rise up to the top again, working with former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez.
She has acknowledged that being on the tennis tour is very difficult for young girls and women.
“Many of the players are almost teenagers, or in their younger twenties who are in sight of everyone, and everyone comments about them,” she has said.
“We are very alone and we have to have a lot of strength so as not to go down in bad times, especially in an individual sport, and try to get out of them being positive.
“The key to a good career is to deal with good and bad times.”
She is happy to be working with Martinez again.
“We started the year from scratch and as every year we have the batteries charged and excited to be back up,” she said ahead of Shenzhen.
“Conchita and I have known each other for a long time, we have shared beautiful moments, also as Captain of the Federation Cup. We are excited.”
Despite only winning one game in the first seven, Rogers nonetheless forced Muguruza to find some of her best tennis early in the match, and it proved a sign of what was to come in the second set.
Closer than the scoreboard indicated, the first 4 games of the first set were hotly contested, particularly the 3rd when the Spaniard was serving, and Rogers was unable to convert any of her 3 break points to fall behind 3-0.
After getting on the scoreboard in the 4th game, but saving a break point to do so, Rogers lost 5 of the next 6 games to trail by a set and a break at 6-1 2-1, but the American swiftly battled back from there.
From a 30-0 deficit, Rogers scored her lone break of Muguruza’s serve for the match to restore parity at 2-2, and the two players traded dominant holds of serve until the ensuing tiebreak.
“The first set was quickly on my side, but then in the second set, she came back playing very well and definitely the match was tougher,” Muguruza said.
“I was happy with the tiebreak, because you never know who’s going to win in that situation, but I managed to play well and get the match under my belt.”
With a semi-final berth on the line, Muguruza will face Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas, who ousted Russian Anna Blinkova, the first-round conquerer of top seed Belinda Bencic, in a marathon 6-1 6-7(9) 6-4 victory.
“My goal is to play as many matches as I can, so I’m looking forward to my next match and to keep advancing in the tournament,” Muguruza added.
“I’ve never played [Diyas before] so I’m looking forward to facing a new opponent.”
Local interest was maintained when Qiang Wang, the Chinese 4th seed, came through a lengthy topsy-turvy battle with Aliaksandra Sasnovic from Belarus, 6-4 0-6 7-6(5), that lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes.
She will now take on the No 5 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who extended her winning streak to 7 straight matches thanks to a straight-sets win over compatriot and former finalist Peng Shuai, 7-6(7) 6-1, in 83 minutes.
The Russian, who captured her third career title at the WTA 125 Series event in Limoges, France to end 2019, bested the 2014 runner-up in Shenzhen to reach her first quarter-final in her third main draw, and fourth overall, appearance at the tournament.
“The first set was tough, because the start was good, then the middle was so bad, and the end was okay,” Alexandrova said after the match.
“I think she played extremely well at the end in the first set. In the second set, I was lucky that I could break her, and after, it was much easier for me.
“It feels great to finally play in the quarter-finals here, because I’m playing for the fourth time here,” she added.
“I’m really excited and I hope I can do my best. I had a great preseason so right now, I’m feeling very confident and good on the court.”