French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza is starting the 2017 WTA season a lot better than she did in 2016, the fourth seed at the Brisbane International, didn't reach a semifinal until May at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, nonetheless, the Spaniard has spent just under eight hours on court, and is going from strength to strength by showing her fighting qualities and her will to win.
Muguruza's semifinal opponent is the feisty Alize Cornet, and the Frenchwoman wears her heart on her sleeve, as she is an emotional player but embraced by the fans. Cornet's currently ranked at 41 in the world, and she is the only unseeded player left in the draw and is in the driving seat to claim the last seeding at the Australian Open, thanks to withdrawals from Madison Keys, Petra Kvitova, and Victoria Azarenka.
Muguruza's route to the semifinals
The world number seven has had to come through an extremely tough draw to reach this stage of the tournament and has had to beat three players ranked inside the top 30 to reach the semifinals which are a testament to Muguruza's qualities. The fourth seed began her campaign in Brisbane against Sam Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion in the battle of Grand Slam champions, and it was a physical match that lasted two hours and 45 minutes with Muguruza prevailing, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 7-5. Muguruza had another tough battle to endure with world number 26, Daria Kasatkina which lasted just under three hours but the French Open champion dug deep and saved a match point to defeat the 19-year-old, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7) despite leading 4-1 in the final set.
There was no rest for Muguruza in the quarterfinals as she was paired up with fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in another battle of Grand Slam champions, and despite being fatigued, the Spaniard trailed 1-4 in the opening set but won in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4 to reach her first hardcourt semifinal since the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati last August.
Cornet's route to the semifinals
Cornet, a former world number 11 back in 2009 has also had to navigate through a tough draw to make it into the semifinals in Brisbane, knocking out two seeds along the way. The unseeded Frenchwoman recovered from a set down to defeat seventh seed Elena Vesnina, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the first round, and she followed this up with an emphatic straight sets victory over Christina McHale, 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, and Cornet recorded the biggest victory of her career since defeating Serena Williams three times in 2014 by defeating second seed and world number five Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals despite having a wobble in the second set.
Muguruza and Cornet have met on two occasions, and the former world number two has won both meetings. Their first encounter was in at a WTA 100k event on the clay courts in Bucharest back in 2012 with Muguruza winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, and she followed this victory on the hard courts in Sofia, 6-3, 7-5 in 2014.
Despite spending more hours on court than Cornet, Muguruza will be full of confidence by defeating players of the calibre of Stosur, Kasatkina and Kuznetsova, and those are matches that the French Open champion might have lost last year. Furthermore, it seems that Muguruza has turned a corner, and she is a real contender to win her second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.
However, Cornet is no pushover as the Frenchwoman has shown that she has got the game which can frustrate Muguruza by throwing in drop shots to get the tall Spaniard off the baseline and Cornet is a fabulous returner, and her forehand is a good weapon. Both players are prone to serving double faults on their serves but Muguruza is the better server out of the two players, and if her serve is firing on all cylinders it will be a big help in Muguruza's quest to win this match. The Spaniard possesses a backhand which can do some damage to Cornet on the court along with being a good volleyer at the net due to her days of playing doubles.
This is the first of the two women's semifinal matches taking place in the Pat Rafter Arena at not before 3 pm local time, and the winner of this match will face sixth seed Elina Svitolina or third seed Karolina Pliskova in the final, and those two will play at not before 9 pm local time.
Prediction: Muguruza in three sets