HOBART, Australia - No.2 seed Garbiñe Muguruza had to dig deep in her Hobert International second round clash, needing two hours and 23 minutes to win a rain-interrupted battle against qualifier Ons Jabeur, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).
“Very tough match,” Muguruza told press afterwards. “She was playing very loose and playing just really incredible, so I mean, when your opponent is playing like that you have to level up your game and stay with her until the last moment.
“I had a match point down, but I never gave up. And in the end I was rewarded this time, but I’m happy with the fighting spirit until the last minute.”
Indeed, Muguruza looks to have turned over a new leaf in 2020, kicking off her season with a semifinal run at the Shenzhen Open. Before that week, she had been unable to reach that stage in a tournament in nine months, when she lifted the trophy in Monterrey.
She needed an extra push in her Hobart opener, easing past the first set against Wang Yafan but halting a late comeback from the Chinese player to win 6-1, 7-5. It was her first match at Hobart since the Spaniard’s 2014 run to the trophy.
Up against Jabeur for the first time on Centre Court, Muguruza was facing another on fire opponent in the Tunisian, who had to battle past two rounds of qualifying and win her first-round match against Anna Blinkova to meet her.
Both players had to contend with sporadic rain showers moving through Hobart, particularly during the second set. Muguruza was up 4-2 after claiming an early break, and had to leave the court for a lengthy break. Upon resumption, Muguruza and Jabeur managed just one game before the skies opened up again, sending them back into the locker room with the Spaniard leading 5-2.
“It is not nice when you are warmed up and ready to play, and then you try to go out and then you have to go inside, outside, again,” Muguruza explained. “I tried not to think about it, don’t give it a lot of thoughts. Just stay here [in the player lounge] and stay active, thinking about what I have to do.”
Muguruza stayed calm against the conditions - and the inspired Tunisian qualifier across the net. She served out the second set with confidence, but ran up against another flurry from Jabeur. The pair traded breaks twice to start the decider, staying level at 2-2; Muguruza created two break opportunities but couldn’t convert. Jabeur pounced on the scoreboard pressure with Muguruza serving to stay in the match at 6-5, and a double fault - one of Muguruza’s seven in the match - gifted Jabeur match point.
But the two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza fought back, and the pair went to a tiebreak. From there, it was the Spaniard in control, opening up a 5-1 lead and taking her second match point. It sent Muguruza into the quarterfinals, where she’ll take on No.5 seed Veronika Kudermetova.
“Physically, it’s really a challenge [after being on court for this long],” Muguruza said of her upcoming quarterfinal. “I just have to recover as quick as I can, try to keep playing.
“But today, that’s probably the toughest match out of all the ones I played this year… It’s going to be good for the rest of the year, these kinds of matches. Not only for Australian Open.
”You know, you have a match point down, and it’s tough, and you’re hanging in there, and you ended up winning - it’s a very rewarding feeling."