Sunday, August 20, 2017

Notes on Muguology

Muguruza was always going to happen.

The foot injury slowed down the Spaniard's path to stardom, and she did herself no favors with her tendency to become very negative and then "go off" in the middle of matches.




Photo by Leslie Billman
But even with all the muguing around on court, there was still the talent, and the poise, and that easy-to-watch fluidity that comes along once in a great while. When she won the French Open, it was hardly a surprise.

Nor was it a surprise that the obviously emotional Spaniard retreated somewhat after winning a major. We saw this reaction after Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon the first time. Once you win a major, you're a celebrity and once you're a celebrity, your life changes, and adjustments must be made. This is especially true in an age when communication is widespread and rapid, and marketing is everything.

When Muguruza won Wimbledon, she created a startling WTA statistic: 50% of her titles were majors. And of the other 50%--two tournaments--only one was a premier event. She had become the ultimate "big stage" player. Would this odd pattern continue? The answer appears to be "no." Since winning in London, the Spanish star has looked more consistent and relaxed, and she has learned to embrace her stardom with a bit more ease. Also, she just won another tournament--a big one.

Muguruza is an unusual combination of poise and emotional fragility. Right now, the balance is tipped way over to the poise side, but it would be unrealistic to believe that it won't sometimes tip over to the other side. This is also perfectly fine. Muguruza made it clear this week that she's glad to own all of her emotions, and that doing so feels like the natural thing to do. It is, of course, and it was gratifying to hear her say this.

This week marked a turning point for Muguruza: She won her first tournament in the USA. Always before, she said, she entered the U.S. hard court season ready to play, but things just didn't go well for her. Now, she's the Cincinnati champion. Asked how long it took her to become comfortable during today's final, she immediately replied, "from the first moment." Muguruza had already saved three match points in two consecutive matches--perhaps the hard part was over for her.

A little over a year ago, I said that the Age of Mugu wasn't quite upon us (obviously, I thought--even then--that there would be such an era). But it appears to have arrived. This doesn't mean that she'll dominate--there are too many other really good players waiting for their moment, with Karolina Pliskova first in line. And one, Alona Ostapenko, has already sneaked in. But the Spaniard has already won two majors on two very different surfaces, and she possesses that je ne sais quoi that makes me look forward to what I think will be a notable career.

2 comments:

jwr said...

I might have said this before, but an in-form Muguruza is the closest we're likely to see to a pre-injury Sharapova (certainly closer than the post-injury Sharapova, who is still good enough to win an occasional major). There are nuanced differences, of course, but the relentless pressure she can put on opponents--any opponent--is strikingly similar. Be interesting to see how able she is to maintain that form over a long stretch. I'm certainly rooting for her!

Nondisposable Johnny

Diane said...

I agree, Johnny. And I do think we're in for a stretch of a more consistent Garbine :)