Monday, 16 January 2017

Muguruza stumbles through

First up on Margaret Court Arena is Spanish seventh seed Garbine Muguruza, the reigning French Open champion, and she will be playing New Zealand's best Marina Erakovic. 
The two have met once before, in the 2015 Aus Open, where Garbine disposed of the Kiwi in straight sets.

Last year's Aus Open was underwhelming for Muguruza, who as third seed left the tournament in the third round thanks to Barbora Strycova.  Even less fun was had by Erakovic who couldn't last beyond the first round of qualifying.
A repeat of the 2015 experience is the best one can expect for the New Zealander today, especially considering 2017 thus far.  Garbine reached the semi finals in Brisbane before retiring 1-4 against Alize Cornet, and Marina lost her first round in Auckland.

After a rusty start, with shots long and into the net, Muguruza was strong on serve, and the backhand winner was a positive sign.  However no points were taken off the server for the opening three games.

Serve continued to be held but it was Garbine making most of the play, either hitting winners or making mistakes.  Marina was holding her own and leading 3-2.
Impeccable on serve, but so far impatient receiving, Muguruza finally decided to rally and it produced some poor choices from Erakovic, who hit long on three occasions.  The break came with a terrific backhand landing at the feet of a stunned Marina who had no chance. 4-3 to Garbine.

It took until the fourth Spanish serve for Erakovic to finally take a point off it, and she did with one of the best rallies of the match to this stage.  She won two more thanks to Muguruza errors, and earned a break back point.  A nervous netted forehand from the seventh seed completed the break and it became 4-4.

Three good serves from 15-30, and some brilliant net play on the final point gave Erakovic a 5-4 advantage and surprisingly Muguruza needed to hold to remain in the opening set. 
Two netted backhands and a poor volley from Muguruza gave Erakovic a set point, but three clutch serves saved the day, a backhand winner levelling the set at 5-5.

The sudden momentum shift spilled over into the next game and Marina committed a series of unforced errors to face break points.  A sizzling down the line winner saved one, but she was unable to avoid the seemingly inevitable and now it was Garbine serving for the set.

An unconvincing start was mitigated with an ace and 15-30 became 30-30 with Erakovic finding the net.  Set point arrived with a fortunate forehand finding the line.  The set was confirmed when a New Zealand ground stroke landed wide.
7-5 Muguruza, but not the most convincing after a solid first seven games.

After a stumbling start to set two, Erakovic controlled the rest of her opening service game to lead 1-0.  Muguruza, who'd taken a medical time out, probably chose the wrong medicine as she quickly slipped to 0-40 with some woeful shot making.  The break was merciful in the end and Marina led 2-0.

Garbine hit two successive forehands in the third game (which she also lost) - one was a sublime winner, the next worthy of the closest landfill.  This was symptomatic of her inconsistency and the frustration was showing.

The quality of tennis in the next two games lifted and Muguruza finally put a score on the board.  However, she trailed 1-4 and the confidence was oozing from the Kiwi racquet.  Her work at the net was causing heaps of trouble and Muguruza was unsure where to position herself on the court.
Three break points were saved on the next Spanish serve, effectively keeping her second set hopes alive at 2-4.

A trio of screaming winners from Garbine and a double fault from Marina, helped create two break points, the second of which was converted with a shot wide.  3-4 and back on serve.  
Once the games score was level, thanks to some fine serving and a range of ground strokes from woeful to pretty, it was as if Garbine had been released to do her own thing.

The final two games allowed us to see some of the best from Muguruza who won through to the second round 7-5 6-4.

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