MELBOURNE, Australia - Garbiñe Muguruza says she's not 'back' -- instead, she wants you to know that she never left.
The former World No.1 had a resurgent fortnight Down Under, and although she fell one match short of a third Grand Slam title, showed the kind of tennis that took her to the top of the rankings over the past two weeks.
After winning the opening set in Saturday's final, Muguruza was unable to counter a determined effort in a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat against No.14 seed Sofia Kenin in the first Grand Slam final of the decade, as the match extended past two hours under the roof inside Rod Laver Arena.
Despite leaving Melbourne Park without the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, the Spaniard's fortnight nonetheless showcased her resilience.
She overcame a viral illness that forced her to withdraw from the Hobart International early on in her first round match against American Shelby Rogers, and scored back-to-back Top 10 victories in completed matches for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
Ultimately, she scored three Top 10 wins for the fortnight against Elina Svitolina in the third round, Kiki Bertens in the fourth round, and Simona Halep in the semifinals.
"Right now, it's tough to be happy, although it has been an incredible tournament. You lose a final, but you got to make it to the final to be able to win or lose," Muguruza told reporters after falling short in the final.
"I think I'm in a good process. I think I felt my game much better than before. I think I got to keep it that way, keep working physically. These events are really long, so you got to be strong.
But just keep improving and being able to go far in the tournaments because then is when you face these top players. You get a feel of where your game has to go, what...I have to improve."
Despite having her best Australian Open run, and her best Slam run overall since the 2018 French Open, the 26-year-old feels her resurgence was building well before she earned a chance to compete for another major title.
"If people see it because I'm in a Grand Slam final, that makes sense. I feel like I was playing a lot of tournaments. I was on the tour. I didn't disappear. I was there. Not reaching final rounds, for sure," she said.
"I don't think all the time about consistency. It's something very important. I'm just going to a tournament, see how far I can go. I get very motivated also in the Grand Slams because that's where you get very excited.
"I don't analyze too much. [On the] first day, [against Rogers], I was almost in the locker room. I lost first set in, like, 10 minutes. I don't have to be too bad on myself, and value that it paid off."
The two-time major champion, who had fallen outside the Top 30 after losing seven of her last eight matches of last season, has racked up 11 match wins over her first three tournaments of 2020 -- already exactly half of her total victories in 2019.
By reaching the semifinals, Muguruza had already guaranteed her return to the Top 20, and will be back at World No.16 in Monday's rankings update.
"I don't think at all about the previous years - even the good ones or the bad ones. I feel like, 'What for?' I got the best out of it, good or bad. I just started a new year. I have a new team," she said.
"I think it's a great start of the year, for sure. It's going to give me a lot of information about where I am right now."