Reigning French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza looked down and out on Day One of the Australian Open, seeming to be hampered with a right thigh injury. However, she has dropped a solitary set and will be competing in quarterfinals in Melbourne for the first time in her career.
The seventh seed would have been expecting to face world number one and defending champion Angelique Kerber on the other side of the net. However, Kerber lost to Coco Vandeweghe, who played a sublime tennis match to reach her first quarterfinal like Muguruza. The American will not be overwhelmed by the occasion, as she reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2015.
Muguruza's route to the quarterfinals
Muguruza began her quest for a second Grand Slam singles title against New Zealand's Marina Erakovic. The 23-year-old struggled in this match, having to save a set point at 4-5 down in the first set and she recovered from 1-4 down in the second set to win the match in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4. Moreover, in the second round, the Spaniard's injury fears were gone as she played a sublime tennis match against Samantha Crawford, prevailing 7-5, 6-4 for the second match running.
The third round saw Muguruza play 32nd seed Anastasija Sevastova, and the Latvian recorded a victory over Muguruza in the second round of the US Open last year, despite falling 0-2 down, the Spaniard recovered and avenged her loss to the 32nd seed in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, advancing to the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time in her career. The French Open champion defeated Sorana Cirstea, who was competing at the second week of a Slam for the first time since reaching the French Open quarterfinals in 2009. The Spaniard cruised past the Romanian, 6-2, 6-3 to reach her fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal, and first on hard courts.
Vandeweghe's route to the quarterfinals
The unseeded American took advantage of a draw of a seed. Vandeweghe defeated 2015 US Open finalist and 15th seed Roberta Vinci, 6-1, 7-6 (3) in the first round, and she followed this up with a straight-sets win over France's Pauline Parmentier, 6-4, 7-6 (5). In the third round, Vandeweghe was paired with 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard in a match in the Rod Laver Arena, defeating the Canadian in a three-set thriller, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. In the fourth round, Vandeweghe played inspired tennis to dethrone the reigning champion and top seed Angelique Kerber in their third career meeting, 6-2, 6-3, advancing to her second Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Muguruza and Vandeweghe have met on three occasions, and the world number 35 leads 2-1 in their head-to-head meetings. The American won their first two encounters on grass in 2014 in 's-Hertogenbosch, 7-6 (3), 6-1 and in the first round of Wimbledon, the first time Muguruza was seeded at a slam and failed to backup her run to the quarterfinals of the French Open a month prior. Moreover, the seventh seed won her first meeting over the hard-hitting American at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati last year, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Who reaches the semifinals?
It's hard to understand as to why Muguruza performs well on the hard courts in Melbourne but struggles to perform on the hard courts in New York. The French Open champion has a dismal record at the US Open only winning two matches there in her whole career, with the second round in 2015 and 2016 being her best finishes at Flushing Meadows.
Nevertheless, Muguruza reached the second week of a Slam for the first time in Melbourne in 2014 losing to Agnieszka Radwanska on that occasion, and she would go on to defeat Serena Williams in the second round of the French Open, announcing her name to the world, eventually reaching the quarterfinals losing to Maria Sharapova.
Moreover, Vandeweghe has struggled at the Australian Open with the third round in 2015, prior to this run to the quarterfinal was her best run. The former top 30 player will need to serve well against Muguruza like she did against Kerber, and the American's movement has significantly improved on the court. However, Vandeweghe can get frustrated at herself on the court, which Muguruza will feed on and punish the American. Muguruza will also need to look after her service games, and her forehands and backhands will need to be firing on all cylinders to trouble Vandeweghe.
This is the second match scheduled in the Rod Laver Arena at not before 1 pm local time, and the winner of this match will face 2003 finalist and 13th seed Venus Williams or 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, which springs a good chance for one of these four players to reach the final.
Prediction: Muguruza in three sets