What has happened to Garbiñe Muguruza?

Garbine Muguruza in action at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships.

Let’s go back to the year 2016. It’s May in France and all the women of the WTA tour are preparing for the 2nd Major of the year. You have a slew of contenders, #1 seed Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, and others. Enter Garbiñe Muguruza, Muguruza entered the tournament as the #4 seed and was a finalist at Wimbledon just a year prior. Muguruza’s first-round match was a three-set win over the Slovakian player, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

After that match, Muguruza didn’t lose a set en route to the finals. She would meet Serena Williams in the French Open final, a rematch of the Wimbledon final a year ago. Serena won in straight sets at Wimbledon and this match on this day was a straight-set victory but it was a victory for Muguruza. Garbiñe Muguruza had just won her 1st Major title. Defeating Serena Williams in a final is as impressive a win as you can have.

Second Major and World #1

It’s 2017, we walk through the gates of The All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. The players were in their whites looking to win one of the most prestigious titles in sports. Serena was not here due to her pregnancy but her sister Venus was. Muguruza reached the final yet again only dropping a set (4th round to Kerber). Here we are again, another Grand Slam final between a player named Williams and Muguruza. Another straight-set victory as Garbiñe Muguruza had just won her 2nd major title. A few months later in September, she would be the #1 player in the world. After that major win, Muguruza would begin the steady decline that no one, not even she saw coming. At the end of 2017, she ultimately lost the #1 ranking. In 2018 the decline continued as she ended the year at a ranking of #18.

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A Slow Decline

The 2019 season wasn’t exactly the turnaround Muguruza was hoping for.  She did advance to the round of 16 at the French Open but was defeated by American Sloane Stephens.  The final two Majors of the year were worse than that. Losses in the first round of both Wimbledon and the US Open. Muguruza ended her season short in November and finished ranked 36 in the world. It seemed that the two-time Grand Slam champion was further away from another major final appearance than ever before. Muguruza entered the 2020 Australian Open unseeded and her draw didn’t look favorable. A potential matchup with number 5 seed Elina Svitolina was waiting for her in the 3rd round. That match came and went with a 6-1 6-2 victory for Muguruza.

A Major Turn-Around

Things seemed to be turning around for her as she made the semifinals, taking on Simona Halep. A tough battle between both women but in the end, Muguruza would advance to her 4th major final, taking on American Sofia Kenin. Muguruza did win the 1st set but ultimately lost in 3 sets. The 2020 season was affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic so tennis looked a little different.  There was no Wimbledon so Garbiñe set her sights on the US Open in New York. Another disappointing Grand Slam appearance as she was defeated in the 2nd round and finished the year ranked 15. Muguruza looked to continue where she left off in Australia, making the final a year prior.  Muguruza did make the 4th round but ultimately lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.

French Open Falter

Her performance in Dubai was a bright spot for her that year as she defeated Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Elise Mertens to reach the final. In the final, she defeated Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets.  It was Muguruza’s biggest title win since Cincinnati in 2017 and her first title since Monterrey in 2019. Her performance at the 2021 French Open is one she would like to forget about. She was bounced in the first round to Marta Kostyuk in straight sets. In that straight-set loss, Muguruza committed 40 unforced errors.

An Up and Down Year

She entered Wimbledon that year seeded 11th and made the 3rd round before losing to Ons Jabeur. Muguruza then suffered early exits in tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati. She entered the US Open seeded 9th, advancing to the 4th round by defeating 2020 US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka.  Muguruza was then defeated by 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova. After a win in Chicago over Ons Jabeur, which resulted in Muguruza’s ninth career title she descended on tennis paradise and played Indian Wells.
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Back To The Top

In the first round, she drew Ajla Tomljanovic and she was upset in three sets. Overall, it had been a better year for Muguruza and she ended up qualifying for the year-end 2021 WTA Finals. A semifinal matchup between Muguruza and Paula Badosa would give us the first Spanish player to reach the finals since 1993. It was a win for Muguruza and she would take on Anett Kontaveit in the finals.  Muguruza would go on to defeat Kontaveit in straight sets, win her first WTA Finals championship, and finish the year ranked #3 in the world.

Loss Of Form

2022 is when we see the loss of form for the former World #1. Entering the 2022 Australian Open, Muguruza was the #3 seed. She advanced to the second round before losing to Alize Cornet, who was ranked #61. Muguruza did reach the quarterfinals of Doha before losing to Jelena Ostapenko. It was Muguruza’s second quarterfinal of the year. She received a first-round bye at Indian Wells but lost in her first match to Alison Riske-Amritraj. The next tournament she played was in Madrid after withdrawing in Miami. She notched her 300th WTA career win over Ajla Tomljanovic but lost in the second round.

The Decline Is Continuing

Entering the French Open that year, Muguruza had a less-than-stellar clay season. First-round losses in Rome and a second-round loss in Morocco, Muguruza didn’t enter the second major of the year with the highest amount of confidence. Muguruza drew Kaia Kanepi in the first round in Paris and was dispatched in three sets. For Muguruza it was the first time in nine years she lost more matches on clay than she won, posting a 2-4 record on the surface.  A definite shock for a player who won her first Grand Slam on that surface six years ago.

Early Exits Continued

Muguruza entered Wimbledon as the ninth seed but the struggles continued as she lost in the first round, only amassing four games in two sets. Muguruza then entered the tournament in Toronto but lost in the second round to Belinda Bencic only winning four games in that match. In her first match in Cincinnati, she was defeated by Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. Muguruza entered the 2022 US Open seeded ninth and eventually made the third round.  She would play Grand Slam champion, Petra Kvitova. Muguruza had her chances in that match, even holding two match points in the third set but ultimately fell to Kvitova 7-6 in a third-set tiebreak.

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A Major Drop

After her loss in New York, Muguruza fell outside the top ten for the first time since July 2021. She made the quarterfinals in Tokyo but lost to eventual champion Liudmila Samsonova. Her final tournament of the year was in San Diego and unfortunately ended in retirement with an abdominal injury against Zheng Qinwen. Due to her poor season, Muguruza finished out of the top 50 for the first time since 2013.

2023 and Beyond

This year has not started any better for the two-time Grand Slam champion with first-round losses in Adelaide 1 and Adelaide 2. She entered the Australian Open unseeded for the first time since 2020. Muguruza had a lead and was serving for the match against Elise Mertens but the lead went and so did the match.  Muguruza was knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round for the first time since her debut in 2013. Most recently she took a wild card in Lyon and lost in her first-round match to Linda Noskova.

Remember at the beginning of the article, back in September of 2017. Muguruza was ranked #1 in the world. Fast forward to the present day, she is now ranked 82 in the world. In recent years she has reconnected with 1994 Wimbledon Champion, Conchita Martinez. Martinez, who was with Muguruza when she won her Wimbledon title in 2017 looks to figure things out for the remainder of the season. I am not saying Muguruza can’t turn this around. Especially since what took place in Australia this year, any woman is capable of making a run at a major. Tennis is a lonely sport; you are out there by yourself and only you can figure it out. For Garbiñe Muguruza, the time to figure it out is now. Muguruza has had a hall-of-fame career but I think has a lot more work to do on the court first.

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