After a spell on the sidelines with glandular fever, Lara Arruabarrena made her return last month in Eastbourne and is eager to make up for lost time.
WTA Staff

For a player that has enjoyed many of her best moments on clay, it was particularly galling for Lara Arruabarrena to spend the vast majority of WTA's springtime tour around Europe watching on from the sidelines.

Victory at the WTA 125K Series event in Cali as well as a reputation-enhancing fourth round run in Indian Wells had provided timely confidence boosters ahead of the trip back across the Atlantic. Yet dreams of red dirt domination were scuppered by a bout of glandular fever.

A two-month spell out of the game followed, bringing her flying start to 2013 to an abrupt halt and forcing Arruabarrena to take in Roland Garros, Madrid and the rest of the clay court season on the television rather than on the court.

"Yes, it was a shame not to be in Madrid. I followed as much of the tournament as I could on television, but it's not the same as being there," Arruabarrena said. "It is a special tournament because now it is the only women's tournament which is played in Spain, and also because my family normally come to watch me play there.

"More generally, it has been a pity that I've missed these months of competition because I was playing well and I missed some important tournaments such as Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros."

Arruabarrena was also forced to miss out on making her Fed Cup debut in Spain's World Group promotion play-off with Japan. "I was really excited because it was the first time the captain had called me to play in the Fed Cup and it was really frustrating, because it is always exciting to be able to play on a team for your country."

While she may not have made it out on court, team captain Conchita Martínez invited Arruabarrena along as Carla Suárez Navarro and company swept aside Japan 4-0. "We always play individually and playing in a team is something new and I was really looking forward to it, but they let me be with them and cheer them on from the bench, which is different, but it was great."

Alongside Garbiñe Muguruza and María-Teresa Torró-Flor, Muguruza is one of an emerging band of Spaniards rapidly climbing the rankings. All three are now safely established inside the Top 100, with a friendly rivalry inspiring each to greater heights.

"All three of us get along really well and the good thing is that there is a healthy rivalry, because all three of us are more or less at the same place in the rankings, one week one of us is ahead and another it's a different one of us," she added.

"Because our games are of a more or less similar standard, when we see that one of us has had a great result against someone who is above us we think, 'why can't the rest of us do something similar?' It's a good rivalry to have."

Due to her spell on the sidelines, Muguruza and Torró-Flor have stolen a march in terms of pecking order in the rankings, but after returning last month in Eastbourne, Arruabarrena is now eager to make up for lost time.

"Obviously I am still not 100%, but I'm looking forward to competing again in order to get my match rhythm back," she said. "Having barely touched a racquet for a while I can't expect too much. I have to think about getting back to my best bit by bit, although I'm not focusing on the bigger goals just yet."  

For the Mutua Madrid Open website's full interview with Arruabarrena, please click here...