Garbine Muguruza came through a serious battle to beat Turkish #1 player Cagla Buyukakcay in the Linz first round on Wednesday.
Many people were wondering how well Muguruza would play after a very disappointing Asian swing, and she still did not look match-sharp in today’s victory. The Spaniard played the role of the aggressor in this match and tried her best to play a consistently great but purposeful performance against one of game’s hard-working player’s.
Cagla Buyukakcay put up a valiant effort
Buyukakcay, who is experiencing her greatest year on the WTA tour, showed just how difficult she can be when she is feeling positive about her tennis. She gets a lot of balls back into play and works hard during every point. Also she can hurt players with the pace she generates off the backhand side. Players underestimate the lesser-ranked Buyukakcay because of her defensive skills, but she hits deceptively quick on a lot of her groundstrokes, which keeps her opponents guessing at all times.
The Turkish star, whose triumph in Istanbul earlier this year defined her career to date, threw everything at the world #6. She asked questions after questions and drew unforced errors out of the sometimes unstable Roland Garros champion.
Buyukakcay’s main issue was being insecure on her own serve. She dropped the first set 6-4 but had her chances, like she does against a lot of the elite players. That is the most promising sign for the Turk. She is competing closely with some of the world’s best, which can only be a good thing for future matches.
Despite her best efforts though, she fell in two close sets 6-4 6-4. Nevertheless she will take a lot of positives from today’s match.
Garbine Muguruza remains positive after difficult opening match
Garbine Muguruza recognised that she’d been in a battle. She wouldn’t have known much about Buyukakcay leading into this match, but left the court respecting the fight that the Turk put up in two close sets:
“I think it was a tough first round. I think the other one played very well and I think we both played well, so it was a battle out there. It is a great feeling to start the tournament with a win like this.”
A tough contest is something Garbine Muguruza has to value right now. One of several criticisms of her in the past is that she struggles to keep up a high level when her opponent starts firing on all cylinders. Sometimes questions have been asked whether Muguruza has that fire in her stomach to push through the pain barrier and become a warrior that digs deep in difficult, close encounters.
“I was just hanging in there and waiting for my opportunity.”
When I asked Muguruza what she thought she did well in today’s match, the calming influence of coach Sam Sumyk began to surface. It was almost like I was talking to the knowledgeable tennis coach, who has guided Victoria Azarenka and the Spaniard to Grand Slam success:
“I think I was just calm and concentrate, even though the other one was making great shots and playing good in the important moments. I was just hanging in there and waiting for my opportunity.”
The ability to disregard the adversity coming from the other side of the court takes a special mental strength. On occasions, Garbine Muguruza has not always been the greatest at handling that. Those words of confidence and inner-strength are something that cannot be ignored though, and it is definitely something that Sumyk would be stressing to her behind the scenes.
During her press conference, Muguruza was asked how she was feeling physically after a long, arduous season on tour.
“It is hard because you start in January and you finish in November. If you obviously want to be in the top ranking you have to play well every tournament. It takes a lot of energy, sometimes you have more pain, less pain, but obviously now in the final part of the year everybody is more tired and you start to feel the pains.”
Garbine Muguruza continues her quest of qualifying for Singapore in consecutive years when she plays Monica Niculescu in the second round in Linz on Thursday.