Muguruza to face Pavlyuchenkova, former coach

  • Reem Abulleil

Garbine Muguruza and Conchita Martinez are once again proving they are a match made in tennis heaven, as their recently-resumed coaching partnership has helped guide the Spaniard back into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time since 2017.

Two-time major champion Muguruza, who had Martinez in her corner during her run to the Wimbledon title three years ago, reunited with her countrywoman during the offseason last November, after concluding a fruitful four years with French coach Sam Sumyk.

MORE: All the results from Day 8 in Melbourne

The Spanish duo spent five weeks in San Diego preparing for the new season and the work they’ve put in is already paying dividends, with the unseeded Muguruza backing up her dismissal of No.5 seed Elina Svitolina with a 6-3 6-3 victory over No.9 seed Kiki Bertens in just 68 minutes on Monday.

Muguruza is now into her first Slam quarterfinal since Roland Garros 2018, and next takes on Russian No.30 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is now being coached by Sumyk.

“I think being an ex-player, she understands me pretty fast. We don't need a lot of words to have this complicity,” Muguruza said of Martinez, who won Wimbledon in 1994.

“We worked together before. It has worked well. It's not a guarantee, but I'm happy to have her in my team.” 

Muguruza's renewed aggression has been a feature of her Melbourne run

Many people were rooting for Muguruza and Martinez to rejoin forces, and saw it as a partnership that made sense.

“Well, yeah, you do hear. It's like couples, we all want Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston to get back together, right?” laughs Martinez, who ended her stint as Karolina Pliskova’s coach at the end of last season.

“Sometimes it happens like that. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to work with Karolina. It was a great partnership. We had an awesome year. Now being back with Garbine, it feels great to be back and united, working hard. For me to see her doing well is great, great.”

‘Now being back with Garbine, it feels great to be back and united, working hard. For me to see her doing well is great’
Conchita Martinez, Garbine Muguruza’s coach

Martinez has managed to bring back some aggression to Muguruza’s game, which has been evident this past week in Melbourne.

The former world No.1, now down to 32 in the world, dropped just three points on her first serve against Bertens on Monday, and her net stats have been particularly impressive through her opening four matches.

Muguruza won 24 of 28 net points in the second round against Ajla Tomljanovic, 14 of 16 against Svitolina in round three, and was 8 of 10 against Bertens. Overall, she has enjoyed an 81 per cent success rate in net points en route to the quarterfinals.

“First of all, you have to feel really good about your groundstrokes. You cannot just go to the net. She's not going to be a serve-and-volleyer just like that. First you work on everything, her groundstrokes, preparing the point,” explains Martinez.

“In our mind, it was very clear that's her type of game. But you first have to work here, start building to feel more confident going to the net. That's why having five weeks or something like that [in the offseason], it was very nice for us to work in all of the aspects and go little by little.

“I think by now she feels comfortable from the baseline. She can build up to the net many times. She's playing really aggressive, which is good.”

The 26-year-old Muguruza started her Australian Open dealing with a viral illness that ruled her out of her semifinal in Hobart the previous week, but says she’s been feeling healthier each day, and is proud of how well she has overcome all adversities throughout the fortnight at Melbourne Park.

Muguruza’s next test comes against an in-form Pavlyuchenkova, who fired a stunning 71 winners to defeat 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in a high-quality duel, 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-2, to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals for a third time in four years.

The last-eight showdown will pit Muguruza against her former coach Sumyk, who joined Pavlyuchenkova’s camp last September.

“I play the player, I don't play the team,” said Muguruza, looking ahead to her upcoming clash.

“For me, I'm just going to think about who is going to be my opponent and bring my game into the court. Afterwards there's not much to say about it.”

Pavlyuchenkova ripped 71 winners past Angelique Kerber on Monday

The 17th-seeded Kerber came back from a double-break 2-5 down and erased a 0-3 deficit in the tiebreak to win a 59-minute opening set, in which she survived 28 winners from Pavlyuchenkova’s racquet.

Winners continued to flow from Pavlyuchenkova’s side of the court, and despite Kerber’s best efforts, the clash went to a decider. Pavlyuchenkova was 5-1 against Kerber in third sets entering this match-up, and the 28-year-old looked on track to make it 6-1 when she hopped to a 4-0 lead. Kerber again fought back, getting one of the breaks, but Pavlyuchenkova would not have a repeat of the first set as she served out the match with an ace to surge forward.

“It was extremely tough and I was a couple of points away from losing the match, so I’m really happy to be standing here right now,” said a relieved Pavlyuchenkova.