MELBOURNE, Australia – One of the highlights of the 2020 Australian Open has been the resurgence of two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
The Spaniard won the 2016 French Open and followed that up with Wimbledon success the following summer, yet in the nine majors since then, she had only progressed beyond the fourth round on one occasion.
The former WTA World No.1 is back at the cutting edge of the game in Melbourne, however, having displayed a level towards her best to dispatch Top 10 players Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens in back-to-back matches.
It is confirmation of the strong form she had shown in warm-up events in Shenzhen and Hobart, much to the delight of coach Conchita Martínez, who began working with the 26-year-old WTA World No.32 for a second spell in the off-season.
“It's like couples - we all want Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston to get back together, right!?” she said, having helped her compatriot during her successful Wimbledon run and also in her previous capacity as Spain's Fed Cup captain. “Sometimes it happens like that. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to work with Karolina Pliskova. It was a great partnership. We had an awesome year.
“Now being back with Garbiñe, it feels great to be back and united, working hard. For me to see her doing well is great, great.”
Muguruza finished 2019 as the WTA World No.36, her lowest position since 2014, but she has appeared a player rejuvenated under Martínez, who on Monday was nominated elected to International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“There was a lot of time actually to work on things, on things that were needed,” the coach reflected of their winter together. “And I think the results are here. It's very nice to see things that you been working in pre-season, and you see her on the court, she's doing these things.
“She's very, very aggressive as she was when she was playing her best tennis. Physically, I see her very well. She's getting to the balls early enough. You can see she's holding her ground really well, accelerating, finishing at the net a lot. That's always nice to see.
“Things like that that you can see a little bit more and more.”
Martínez, a Wimbledon winner herself in 1994, stressed the importance of her charge getting to the net during more regularly but says that in order to achieve this goal, her all-round game has to be on point.
🎉 🥰 ¡Es increíble!, estoy inmensamente feliz por este reconocimiento y muy agradecida. Es todo un privilegio formar parte de la historia del tenis mundial. https://t.co/mqCsP9Ox0H— Conchita Martínez (@conchitamartinz) January 27, 2020
“First of all, you have to feel really good about your groundstrokes. You cannot just go to the net. She's not going to be a serve and volleyer just like that,” she explained.
“First you work on everything, her groundstrokes, preparing the point. To go to the net, you have to prepare the point first. When she's feeling comfortable with that, trusts herself with that, then that's when you can start going to the next step.
“In our mind, it was very clear that's her type of game. But, like I'm saying, you first have to work here, start building to feel more confident going to the net. That's why having, I don't know what it was, five weeks or something like that, it was very nice for us to work in all of the aspects and go little by little.
“I think by now she feels comfortable from the baseline. She can build up to the net many times. Some matches you will do it more, depends also of your opponent. That's the way it should go. She's playing really aggressive, which is good.”
And as well as her technical game, Martínez says she wants to help Muguruza with the mental aspect of her game, too.
“I am trying to help as much as I can with every aspect of her game,” she said. “Not only coaching, that goes with what I was talking about, the experience as a player, the mental part. I’ve gone through that and more things.
“So, I'll try and help her. We talk a lot. But we understand each other. Sometimes you don't need to talk for three hours. You go straight to the point. She understands. She's trusting right now. So it's good.”
Muguruza will attempt to maintain her positive start to the year when she tackles No.30 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.