WTA Brisbane: Aleksandra Krunic sneaks past ailing Muguruza

It was a bittersweet ending to what was a thrilling affair between Garbiñe Muguruza and Aleksandra Krunic after the Spaniard was forced to retire in the final set during their second-round encounter in Brisbane.

WTA Brisbane: Aleksandra Krunic sneaks past ailing Muguruza
Aleksandra Krunic, despite her opponent's injury issues, played well today | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Garbiñe Muguruza (ret.)
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Aleksandra Krunic

It was an unfortunate start to 2018 for world number two Garbine Muguruza as she was forced to retire (or withdraw) from the Brisbane International for the fourth consecutive year. Struggling physically, the Spaniard was hampered with cramps before having to throw in the white towel in the deciding set against the dangerous Aleksandra Krunic, who was in top form today.

The world number 53 has always been a huge threat to the top players — especially after upsetting title favorite Johanna Konta at the US Open last year. Producing an incredible comeback from 5-7, 2-5 down, Krunic showed her absolute fighting spirit to grab the bittersweet win which ended in unfortunate circumstances.

Aleksandra Krunic in action during her second-round match against Muguruza | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Aleksandra Krunic in action during her second-round match against Muguruza | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

Muguruza sneaks through in tough opening set

It was already a high-quality encounter in the opening minutes, with both players coming up with their best tennis, especially for Krunic who was able to challenge Muguruza in the baseline rallies. Surprisingly, it was the underdog who made the first breakthrough after she opened the courts with her solid forehands, and Muguruza was struggling to dictate play.

Krunic looked nerveless despite having the lead against the world number two, but as the match progressed, Muguruza upped her level and slowly found her groove. Rattling off 12 of the next 16 points, the Spaniard jumped out to a 5-4 lead before the set seemed headed towards a tiebreak with Krunic being untouchable on serve.

Garbine Muguruza in action during her second-round match against Krunic, though she was later forced to retire | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Garbine Muguruza in action during her second-round match against Krunic, though she was later forced to retire | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

What followed was incredible — a marathon game lasting over 18 minutes, with the Serbian fending off six set points before crumbling on the seventh. Krunic owned three game points of her own, but after what seemed like an eternity, Muguruza sealed the first set 7-5 after an hour of play.

Krunic completes the unbelievable

Everything was going the way of Muguruza, whose confidence grew after winning the first set. Krunic started to lose the plot and allow the Spaniard to trump over her, especially on the backhand wing with Muguruza looking comfortable hitting winners after winners. Though, Krunic applied the pressure on the Spaniard’s forehands and was soon able to level the scores.

Garbine Muguruza celebrates winning the opening set 7-5 after an hour of play | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Garbine Muguruza celebrates winning the opening set 7-5 after an hour of play | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

However, Krunic had a slight misfocus which allowed Muguruza to find the loophole, jumping out to a commanding 5-2 lead, being just a game away from the win. The world number two was seemingly struggling physically, telling her coach Sam Sumyk that her body was not feeling right. Consecutive double-faults saw Muguruza throw away her lead, and some inspired play from Krunic saved her from the brink, leveling the scores at 5-5 with a fantastic forehand winner.

Muguruza fended off a crucial break point in the 11th game, but this time a tiebreak ensued as Krunic handled her nerves well. Surprisingly, it was a one-sided tiebreak as Muguruza was extremely erratic with nothing clicking for her, and Krunic ultimately finished off the set after 65 minutes, completing the unbelievable comeback.

Aleksandra Krunic celebrates winning the second set 7-6 having came from 2-5 down | Photo: Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Aleksandra Krunic celebrates winning the second set 7-6 having come from 2-5 down | Photo: Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

Muguruza forced to retire

As the final set loomed, Muguruza looked in discomfort on the court and requested a medical time-out in between sets due to a right foot injury. The Spaniard stunningly took the early lead in the decider and looked on course for the confidence-boosting victory. However, cramps overwhelmed her and she was in visible pain, falling to the ground after hitting a serve at 2-1. Unfortunately, this marked the end of this high-quality encounter as the pain was too unbearable, allowing Krunic to seal her spot in the quarterfinals.