Garbine Muguruza had a lot to lose in this match. She had a 1-3 head-to-head against Coco Vandeweghe, and more importantly she lost to French Kristina Mladenovic in the Round of 16, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, dropping out of the top ten and unable to defend her French Open title. The lost though devastating, has freed her. With the monkey off her back, she has been swinging freely and with determination in this tournament. In the first round it took her three sets to defeat the Russian qualifier Elizaveta Kulichkova 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. In the second round she had a cleaner win against American Alison Risk, 6-1, 6-4. The quarterfinal match against the fearless Vandeweghe was several levels above her early rounds and a great opportunity to refocus not only 2017 but prepare for a deep run at Wimbledon.
Vandeweghe sailed through the Aegon Classic Birmingham draw. American Christina McHale had no weapons to trouble her, so the 6-4, 6-2 defeat was expected. However, Britian’s Jonna Konta has a deceptively big and smart game. Vandeweghe was on route to delivering a bagel, when Konta got her game together though she was still soundly defeated 6-1, 6-3. At 6′ 1” Vandeweghe was well prepared for the 6′ Muguruza and tennis fans were eager for what could have been labeled the slugfest or hossfest, a wresting match of large opponents who use stiff or fierce strikes.
Like WWE Wrestlers, Muguruza and Vandeweghe wrestled for the semifinal slot. This would be no beat down, they each worked hard to fight off the other’s power. However, Vandeweghe’s weight of shot, especially her forehand was blistering. The clean shots often forced her opponent back or low to even attempt a return. At 4-3 Vandeweghe was up a game and each had broken once, when she fell. She continued though a bit gingerly initially. Down 5-4, Muguruza served to remain in the set. Like her opponent, Muguruza is a great front-runner, but she often gets tight when she is behind. She is ultimately broken and loses the set 6-4.
Able to quickly re-set, in the second set Muguruza broke Vandeweghe for a 2-1 lead. However, it is Vandeweghe’s tumble that causes the greatest momentum shift. Down with a nasty foot plant and ankle twist, the umpire is quickly hovering over her to assess the situation. The generally boisterous player is mute and still as she assesses her physical and emotional status. The concern is evident on her face and though she doesn’t utter a word, her demeanor communicates her concern. It took her a couple games to swing freely though her movement was clearly hampered. Muguruza was able to keep her focus on her side of the court. She secured a 5-2 lead before Vandeweghe broke her to quickly secure two games. Showing maturity and focus, Muguruza played a five-minute game in which she was initially down 0-30, then double faulted for 30-40, but fought through two deuces before she secured the game and the set.
Vandeweghe’s two falls botched the predicted outcome. This was no wrestling bump, phantom or otherwise. Though she tried to play through it in the second set, she would have to throw in the white flag at the start of the third set serving at 0-30. It was clear that her movement was hampered. Vandeweghe had a false comeback in the second set and she knew she could not play against a big hitter without the ability to swing and move freely. The match began as an A-show, but ended closer to a C-show. Though Muguruza was no carpenter, using her abilities to make her opponent look good, she got the win via injury with a 4-6, 6-4, 0-0 win by retirement.
The match began as an A-show, but ended closer to a C-show. Though Muguruza was no carpenter, using her abilities to make her opponent look good, she got the win via injury. Though we did not get the deadmatch we expected, for a set it was all a tennis fan needed: aces, big forehands and backhands down the middle, down the line, cross-court and even some net play. Known for her crowd interaction Vandeweghe was focused, neither hyping (cheap popping) nor insulting (cheap heating) the crowd. Unfortunately, Vendeweghe’s weak ankle dropped the match.
Muguruza will play in the semifinal against Australian Ashleigh Barty, who also arrives at the semifinal via a retiremnt win against Italian Camila Giorgi 5-2. If Muguruza can navigate the zoning Barty, grass princess Petra Kvitova will likely await her in the final. With the monkey off her back, Muguruza may just be ready to resume her form and rise…
For more on Muguruza read: UP NEXT: Serena’s Heir Apparent is…
For more on Vandeweghe read: First Meeting: Vandeweghe and Halep and Fed Cup: From Patriotism to Nationalism and Disorderly Conduct