Garbine Muguruza has sounded a warning to the rest of the Australian Open 2020 women’s field following her straight-sets destruction of fifth seed Elina Svitolina on Saturday night.
Under lights at Rod Laver Arena, the Spaniard commanded the big stage with a 6-1 6-2 win over Svitolina to storm into the fourth round.
Watching the 32nd-ranked Muguruza render the world No.5 almost completely ineffectual was, on paper at least, an extraordinary outcome.
But Muguruza is no ordinary world No.32. The 26-year-old won the French Open in 2016, Wimbledon in 2017, ascended to world No.1 that same year, and had won seven of her nine 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.
Stretched to three sets in her first two matches at Melbourne Park, Muguruza elevated her game against a quality opponent, who in her last two Grand Slam outings had posted semifinal finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open.
In a near-flawless display of all-court, first-strike tennis, Muguruza finished with 31 winners and just nine errors, and was successful in 14 of her 16 trips to the net.
It was all over in just 67 minutes.
“I was very concentrated and focused on what I had to do. I’ll take it,” Muguruza said when asked to assess the performance.
“I think I played a very good match. I managed to probably stop her and take the match to my side. Very happy about that.”
Svitolina had won six of the pair’s eight previous encounters. But at major tournaments, Muguruza owned the series 3-0.
And once again on the Grand Slam stage, Muguruza was superior.
Svitolina couldn’t live with the relentlessness and intensity of Muguruza’s shot-making. The Spaniard belted a backhand winner up the line on her way to breaking for a 5-1 lead, and pounded successive first serves out wide in the ad court to close out the set in just over 20 minutes.
Making matters even more challenging for Svitolina was the fact the Spaniard frequently followed her powerful strikes into the net.
She finessed a half-volley winner just over the net to hold for 1-1 in the second set, broke serve in the next game with a delicate drop-shot winner, and consolidated for 3-1 when she followed a strong first serve up with an inside-out backhand winner.
Svitolina, one of the game’s grittiest fighters, staved off five break points in the fifth game to remain in contention.
But with scores now at 6-1 3-2, the Ukrainian wouldn’t win another game.
More winners flowed off Muguruza’s racquet, allowing her to seal a place in the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the second consecutive year.
Either ninth seed Kiki Bertens or Kazakh Zarina Diyas will be Muguruza’s next opponent as she targets her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in almost two years.