Garbine Muguruza’s Linz journey came to a crashing halt as she was forced to retire and withdraw from the tournament in her match against Viktorija Golubic in the Quarter-Finals. It remains to be seen just what this means for her participation in Singapore which leaves lots of questions unanswered in the build up to the Final Showdown of the season.
The Spaniard started off perfectly, leading with an early break over the talented, rising star Golubic, who has improved immensely over the course of twelve months. Golubic’s sublime shotmaking was clear to see as she broke back immediately and confirmed that this would be a battle for the Roland Garros champion. Muguruza employed a very different tactic to what many of her fans have become used to. The regularity that she was rushing to the net was a joy to see, especially for an ultra-aggressive tennis player like Muguruza. When a player forces short, floating balls from their opponents, you want to see the next ball volleyed away. Muguruza was striving to do just that.
Muguruza initiated the same strategy against Cagla Buyukakcay in the first round and when she faced Monica Niculescu last night. The problem was that Golubic holds much more power and fearful strokes from the ground compared to her two previous opponents, so subsequently Muguruza’s success rate at the net was put under threat.
The shakiness of Muguruza’s game reappeared in the fifth game. She slumped to a break deficit to Golubic at *3-2, but the Spaniard rallied back on level terms at 4-4 in the first set. The World No.6 player broke for the set to take a 7-5 lead and looked on her way to the 2016 Generali Ladies Linz semi-final.
The second set was a set of two halves for the Swiss player. An array of majestic ball-striking sent her into a *4-0 double break lead, but she could not maintain that level and lost serve twice while serving for the set. Golubic eventually broke for the set and levelled the match against the higher ranked Muguruza.
The match had undeniable quality. Muguruza was fighting for every point and looked completely engaged to the task in front of her, while Golubic’s backhand down-the-line looked as good as ever. It was an appetising match for the Austrian crowd, but horror struck in the latter stages of the third set as the match reached it’s conclusion.
The tall, hard-hitting Spaniard attempted to change direction to retrieve the ball in the middle of the rally, but crashed to the ground and yelled in agony. It remains to be seen whether her reaction came out of pure shock or because of the extent of the injury she could be carrying at this moment in time.
The 23-year-old took a medical time out and pondered giving the match one last shot considering she was two games away from the victory. Her coach, Sam Sumyk, reminded his protege that she did not need to go any further as they looked at the bigger picture with Singapore starting in nine days. Muguruza played on and tried her best, but could not play at her highest level and consequently retired at 4-4 in the 3rd set.
Singapore now looks like a major doubt for the Spaniard. She has had ankle injuries in the past and faced long layoffs with that particular injury, but it remains to be seen whether she can recover in time for that event.
It will benefit the sport of tennis if Muguruza stays in good health as she is a popular player, a huge draw for the tournaments and brings a lot to the sport – let’s hope this injury does not look as it bad as it seemed.