MELBOURNE, Australia - Former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza rounds out the final four at the Australian Open after a battling victory against No.30 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets, booking a spot into her first Grand Slam semifinal since 2018.
After a tight, hard-fought battle in the opening set, Muguruza found another level to close it out with confidence in the second, recording a 7-5, 6-3 victory on Rod Laver Arena. Muguruza fired 21 winners and six aces across the one-hour and 33-minute encounter, breaking her opponent five times en route to the next round.
It’s a strong return to vintage form for the 26-year-old Spaniard, who lifted Grand Slam trophies in 2016 and 2017 but struggled to recreate those results in recent seasons, sliding to No.32 in the rankings. She started the season on a tear with a semifinal showing in Shenzhen and made a run to the Hobart quarterfinals before being forced to withdraw due to viral illness.
That illness almost derailed her Melbourne plans, with Muguruza visibly affected during her opening matches. But now looking back to full health, the Spaniard’s tennis has caught fire again. She earned back-to-back Top 10 wins for the first time since 2019 Indian Wells after taking down No.5 seed Elina Svitolina and No.9 Kiki Bertens en route to her clash with Pavlyuchenkova.
"It definitely has been from low to high, not starting at my best, then each day recovering," she said before considering her fallow period.
"I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That's how I see it. I don't see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there are moments where things don't go your way.
"You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again."
Muguruza was down a break twice in a closely contested opening set, which lasted 57 minutes. Under pressure from Pavlyuchenkova in her opening service games, a double fault from Muguruza handed over the first break to give the Russian a 2-1 lead. She broke right back to level at 2-2, both players attacking the ball with their aggressive tennis.
The pair traded breaks once again, with Muguruza fighting her way back to make it 4-4 after a marathon game. With the first set going into additional games, Muguruza raised her level at a crucial time to break at 7-5 and avoid a tiebreak.
Going for her first Grand Slam semifinal after six tries, Pavlyuchenkova reacted strongly to open the second set with a break, 1-0. But with Muguruza dialed in, her lead didn’t last long as the Spaniard broke straight back. Stepping into the court and turning up the aggression, Muguruza dictated the rallies and didn’t face a break point for the rest of the match. She took the decisive break at 4-2, and served out the match after an hour and 35 minutes to round out the final four.
Into her first Australian Open semifinal - and her fifth Grand Slam semifinal overall - Muguruza will take on reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the next round. Muguruza owns the head-to-head edge over Halep with three wins to two, all three victories coming on hardcourts.
"She's a very solid player. She's played very consistency through all these years," the former WTA World No.1 considered.
"It'll be a tough match. That's the case no matter when you play the Top 5. It's a semifinal, so of course I'm expecting her to bring her best game."