‘Hey, I’m here’: Muguruza finds silver lining after letting lead slip

  • Reem Abulleil

Garbine Muguruza is choosing not to over-dramatise her Australian Open final defeat to Sofia Kenin on Saturday, and is instead keen to move forward, knowing exactly what she needs to work on to keep up her progress.

The Spaniard was denied a third Grand Slam title – and first on hard courts – by Kenin, who posted a 4-6 6-2 6-2 victory over Muguruza at Rod Laver Arena to lift her first major trophy.

MORE: Major breakthrough: Kenin masters Muguruza for title

This past fortnight, Muguruza was unseeded at a Slam for the first time since 2014, after her ranking dipped to outside the top 30. The former world No.1 started this year with a new team, working under the tutelage of fellow Spaniard Conchita Martinez, who temporarily coached Muguruza to the Wimbledon title in 2017.

The 26-year-old’s appearance in the Australian Open final on Saturday was her first at a Grand Slam since that run at Wimbledon two-and-a-half years ago. And while Muguruza admits she wasn’t pleased with her performance against Kenin, she’s able to appreciate the effort she put in to get herself back in a position to fight for a major.

“I try to have a good perspective and not be too dramatic. Okay, you lost the match, was important one. But, hey, I'm here. I gave myself a chance to be in a final. You realise that, and you calm down a little bit,” Muguruza said.

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Muguruza made the early running, but couldn't resist Kenin

Muguruza took out three top-10 players en route to the final in Melbourne, which came after she had three top-10 wins in the entire 2019 season, one of which came via retirement. She won a title in Monterrey and reached the fourth round at the French Open, but then won just one match from July until the end of the year.

The Venezuelan-born Spaniard rejects the notion that she is “back”, but acknowledges her struggles to make deep runs at the bigger events these past 18 months.

“I feel like I was playing a lot of tournaments. I was on the tour, guys. I didn't disappear. I was there, but not reaching final rounds, for sure,” she says.

“I don't think at all about the previous years – even the good ones or the bad ones. I feel like, what for? I got the best out of it, good or bad. I just started a new year. I have a new team. That's it.”

‘Okay, you lost the match, was important one. But, hey, I'm here. I gave myself a chance to be in a final. You realise that, and you calm down a little bit’
Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza started the tournament dealing with a viral illness and lost her first set in her opener 6-0 to American Shelby Rogers. She turned things around in that match and upped her level with each round, but says she could feel the accumulation of fatigue in the final from all the matches she played.

She walks away with many positives from Melbourne Park.

“I think I'm in a good process. I think I felt my game much better than before. I think I got to keep it that way, keep working physically,” said Muguruza.

“These events are really long, so you got to be strong. But just keep improving and being able to go far in the tournaments because then is when you face these top players. You get a feel of where your game has to go, what do I have to improve. These are the matches that really give you information.”

Muguruza was the more experienced player on the court on Saturday, as she was contesting her fourth major final, while Kenin was in her first. She was impressed by how well Kenin held her nerves despite the magnitude of the occasion, and was asked if she can see the 21-year-old American lift more Slams silverware in the future.

“If she keeps playing like this, she prove us that she can play very well, play very well in the important moments, which is different story. I think it's even more special. I think so,” she replied.