LONDON, UK - Qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia dealt out another first-round upset at Wimbledon 2019, outhitting former champion and No.26 seed Garbiñe Muguruza 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 30 minutes.
With 20 winners apiece, and 26 unforced errors from Haddad Maia to Muguruza's 28, the contest would be narrowly decided by the former's superior play on big points as she handed the former World No.1 her first opening-round loss at a major since falling to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni at the 2014 US Open.
This time last year, Haddad Maia was dealing with yet another injury setback in a career that, though still young, has had more than its fair share of them so far. This time, it was a back issue that necessitated surgery - and for the Brazilian to miss three months mid-season, including the two summer Slams. Consequently, having broken into the Top 100 the previous year, her ranking dipped from a career high of World No.58 in February to World No.235 in October.
However, a 28-14 win-loss record this year - including a 6-3, 6-3 upset of Sloane Stephens in Acapulco - has seen the 23-year-old rise back to World No.121, and today it was Muguruza coming into the match under a physical cloud: the Spaniard had not played since losing to Stephens in the fourth round of Roland Garros, having withdrawn from Birmingham two weeks ago with a leg injury.
Nonetheless, Muguruza sprinted out of the blocks, snatching eight of the first nine points as Haddad Maia was called for a vocal hindrance in the very first game to go down break points - swiftly taken by the 2017 champion with a running forehand pass. But once Haddad Maia settled, the Bogota semifinalist was able to show off the brutally big hitting that had impressed in qualifying last week, as well as judicious all-court touches that enabled her to switch up her line of attack.
A dropshot return and an emphatic smash paved the way to the break back, before Haddad Maia toughed out a mid-set four-deuce service hold to go up 4-3 - surviving one break point and closing it out with back-to-back aces. Three games later, an ill-timed Muguruza double fault brought up set point for the World No.121 - and she seized her moment with relish, running Muguruza from side to side with sweetly struck power until the former World No.1 could only flick a forehand into the net.
Though Haddad Maia's all-or-nothing approach to her serve resulted in eight double faults, the 2017 Seoul runner-up was able to balance them with seven aces - and the first six games of the second set would pass with neither player facing a break point. But the most crucial passage of play would find both spurning chances, making it a compelling psychological as well as physical test. Muguruza would miss two break points at 3-3, the second missing an open court with a wild drive volley over the baseline - but in the very next game, the Monterrey champion would snatch a 0-40 lead from Haddad Maia by reeling off five straight points with her best sequence of hitting in the match.
But it was the lower-ranked player who would put those missed opportunities behind her most effectively. With the baseline hitting getting even bigger and bolder from both, Haddad Maia held firm to come through another tight hold before, serving to stay in the match, Muguruza oscillated between audacious winners and unfortunate errors. As in the first set, the two-time Grand Slam champion's serve would let her down at the worst moments: two more double faults, including on match point, ended her Wimbledon campaign at the first hurdle for the first time since 2014.
For Haddad Maia, though, it was a statement that, despite all the setbacks, she has the talent to be a regular fixture on this stage - with no further injury setbacks.