KEY BISCAYNE – Things were a little touch-and-go on Team Muguruza during her second-round match against Christina Mchale. Coach Sam Sumyk appeared to opt not to come down to the court when his charge called upon him after the second set, and then gave her the what-for when he did take the court later. And there tears.
The atmosphere wasn’t warm and fuzzy during the last 20 minutes of Garbiñe Muguruza’s warmup for her third-round match against Shuai Zhang Saturday. You could, well, feel the tension.
These two are not all that chatty at the best of times. But this certainly felt a level above that.
The two didn’t exchange one word; Muguruza did bark something at coach Sam Sumyk at one point as she practiced her serve, but that was it. They may not even have gotten closer than 10 feet to each other the entire time. When it was over, she smiled and shook her hitting partner’s hand (generally on Tour, everyone shakes everyone’s hand after these practices and when there is another player involved, that’s a lot of handshakes).
Sumyk didn’t get a handshake; she packed her gear, nodded hello to a member of Agnieszka Radwanska’s team (they took over the court after Muguruza’s time was up), and walked off with the hitting partner leaving Sumyk to pick up the stray tennis balls.
She signed two or three autographs for the big crowd of fans gathered to wait for Rafael Nadal on the adjacent court. And then she was on her way.
Muguruza dropped the first set against Zhang, double-faulting on set point. But she gathered herself and pulled it out in three sets to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 and reach the fourth round. Sumyk came out twice during the match – without drama.
“The first set was few points difference honestly. Then in the second set I came stronger. I said, ‘Look, if yesterday I could come back, I can today as well.’ So I just keep my spirit up. I try to be more aggressive. I try to, I don’t know, be more positive; stop looking the negative things of losing the first set. Then everything went more like the – with more flow I think,” Muguruza said afterwards.
A date with either No. 12 seed Caroline Wozniacki or Romania’s Sorana Cirstea awaits.
Clearly all has not been well for awhile in Garbiñeland; she’s taken some bad losses, is nursing an ongoing ankle situation, and the relationship with Sumyk hardly seems warm and fuzzy.
But she’s doing a better job of fighting this week. And she’s going to need to build some momentum coming into the defence of her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in just two months.
“I’m just going through these situations with the best attitude possible, being humble, trying to accept it, and find my way,” she said.
The 2,000 ranking points Muguruza earned for winning the 2016 French Open will come off her scoresheet. They represent more than 40 per cent of her total. While a first-round loss there this year would only mean a loss of about 10 spots in the rankings – for now – it would take a lot of great results at smaller events to earn those points back.
With this fourth-round effort in Miami, she matches her result from a year ago when she lost in that round to Victoria Azarenka. At least, she can only gain ground from here, not lose any.