NEW YORK, NY, USA - Garbiñe Muguruza doesn't want recognition for a single match. She wants recognition for her young career that this year saw her, at 22 years old, become the youngest active Grand Slam champion at the French Open. You don't become the World No.3 overnight.
"Oh, that's the girl that beat Serena," Muguruza said laughing, recounting what she overhears from casual fans at tournaments. "It happens to me. 'I don't even know her name, but that's the girl!' I want to eventually get the recognition in other aspects."
Muguruza's last 12 months have been about more than just winning the French Open. She was beyond dominant in Paris, rolling to the title by winning 14 consecuive sets, capping it off by, yes, beating the World No.1, 7-5, 6-4 in the final. Last fall she became just the second woman ever to advance to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in her tournament debut.
Her Roland Garros roll and the red and yellow flag next to her name may signal a clay court specialist, but the Spaniard excels on hardcourts. Her biggest title before Roland Garros came in Asia last year at the China Open. That came a week after making the final at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
Inconsistencies have plagued Muguruza in 2016 but as she showed in Paris, she can still hit the highest of heights. She comes into New York this year in good form, making the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open last week where she lost to eventual champion Karolina Pliskova.
"I came here and was like, 'Okay, let's try to make a good tournament,'" Muguruza said in Cincinnati. "I didn't feel my best, but I fight. My spirit was good. I reached semifinals, which is pretty deep in the tournament. I'm happy, and for sure it's going to help me to be a little bit better in the US Open."
Muguruza is hoping to put her New York hex aside this year. In three main draw appearances she has won just one match. But hey, she never won a match in Cincinnati until this year and her first big breakout came at Wimbledon, on a surface she was convinced she hated. Muguruza's ambition has an uncanny knack of expressing itself when you least expect it.
The key for the Spaniard is getting through the first two rounds. She has played 14 events this year, including the Olympics, and failed to win two matches at seven of them. In her last two Slams she has needed three sets to get through her first round match, beating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-3 in the third at the French Open and Camila Giorgi 6-4 in the third at Wimbledon. If she can get those first day jitters out of her system and play the powerful tennis we know she can play, she's an absolute contender for the title. One she gets to the business end and faces the game's best, it's notable that she's 3-2 against Top 5 opponents this year.
"I want to really do well there," Muguruza said of New York. "In the past it has [been] something that didn't clicked. Every time I go there I'm like, This is going to be the year. Hopefully this is the year."