Gracias, Garbiñe Muguruza — Quotes from Stuttgart

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, April 23, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and happy Tennis Tuesday! The meaty part of the European red-clay season is upon us, with the Mutua Madrid Open. However, the biggest news of the week comes from Spain’s greatest player this century — Garbiñe Muguruza.

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The former World No. 1 formally announced her retirement from tennis after having been on a sabbatical since January 2023. She held a press conference ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards, where she was named a Laureus ambassador. Though it’s not unexpected, it’s sad to see Muguruza hang up her racket at the age of 30. She has been outspoken about the toll the tour and the pressures of being at the top of the game have affected her mental health.

A few stats about the Spaniard’s career, which I think will see a Hall of Fame induction in the future:

  • 10 WTA singles titles and five WTA doubles titles
    • 2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Wimbledon champion
    • 2015 Wimbledon and 2020 Australian Open runner-up
    • 2021 WTA Finals singles champion and 2015 WTA Finals doubles runner-up
  • Career-high rankings of No. 1 in singles and No. 10 in doubles
  • $24.7 million in prize money (No. 12 on the all-time list)
  • Two-time Olympian (2016 and 2020)
  • 42 top-10 wins, including four over a reigning World No. 1

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Let’s recap Muguruza’s career:

2008: In May, Muguruza played her first professional tennis tournament, winning her first match against Inna Agaeva before losing in the second round of qualifying. She earned her first WTA point in her Tour debut, falling in the first round of qualifying in Barcelona to Maria Kondratieva.

2009: Muguruza would earn her first ITF World Tour main draw victories, reaching the final of a $10,000 event in Antalya, Turkey, in May. She won win her first professional title that December in Vinaros, Spain, to wrap up her year.

2010: Muguruza wasn’t a top junior prodigy, playing only five events total and hitting a career-high ITF ranking of No. 302. She played her lone Grand Slam event as a junior at Roland Garros, where she qualified and reached the second round, losing to Lyudmyla Kichenok.

2011: The Venezuelan-born Spaniard continued climbing up the rankings by grinding it out on the ITF World Tour. She ended the year in the top 250 after reaching seven singles finals and taking home four titles.

2012: The year of Muguruza’s breakthrough. Early in the season, she had her first WTA qualifying victories and turned professional ahead of the Miami Open, where she was given a main-draw wild card. The week before, she had qualified and won a $25,000 ITF event in Clearwater, Florida, and she continued her form in South Beach. There, she announced herself to the tennis world by reaching the fourth round with upsets over Ayumi Morita, Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta before bowing out to Agnieszka Radwanska. In April, she qualified and reached her first WTA quarterfinal in Fes and would see herself playing her first Grand Slam–qualifying events as a professional. She ended the year ranked just outside of the top 100 and never played on the ITF World Tour again.

2013: This was Muguruza’s first top-100 season, which was cut short after Wimbledon following ankle surgery. Still, she showed promise with a quarterfinal in Hobart and qualifying and making the fourth round of Indian Wells before repeating a round-of-16 finish in Miami. A quarterfinal in Stuttgart preceded her maiden WTA semifinal in ’s-Hertogenbosch. She made her Grand Slam main-draw debut at the Australian Open, winning her first match 14-12 in the third before falling to Serena Williams. She also reached the second round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

2014: In her first action since Wimbledon, Muguruza reached the quarterfinals of Auckland in the first week of the season before qualifying and winning her first WTA title in Hobart. She continued her hot streak by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, which included an upset over Caroline Wozniacki. She would reach another final in Florianopolis and a semifinal in Marrakech before she had another breakthrough at Roland Garros. In Paris, she made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, which included a 6-2, 6-2 demolition over Serena Williams in the second round — the worst Grand Slam defeat of Williams’ career. She had steady results following her big run, ending the season with a semifinal showing at the Tournament of Champions and a No. 21 ranking.

2015: Muguruza continued to reach new heights, with a Wimbledon final highlighting her season. She was extremely consistent, winning the WTA 1000 in Beijing and making another final in Wuhan. She qualified for her first WTA Finals, where she won her round-robin group with a 3-0 record, but fell in the semifinals. She also had her career-best season in doubles, partnering throughout the year with Carla Suarez Navarro. They won titles in Birmingham and Tokyo and reached the championship matches in Dubai, Madrid and the WTA Finals. She ended the year ranked No. 3 in singles and No. 16 in doubles.

2016: Another top-10 season was in the cards for Muguruza, who captured her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros with another straight-sets win over Serena Williams. Still, that was perhaps her lone highlight, as she didn’t make another final that season, but did make semifinals in Rome and Cincinnati, as well as four other quarterfinals. She also made her Olympic debut, reaching the third round before falling to eventual champion Monica Puig. Unfortunately, on the same note, the lone mixed-doubles match in her career was a walkover in Rio with Rafael Nadal. What could’ve been …

2017: The best season of Muguruza’s career, which saw a finish as the No. 2 player in the world. She would win her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, this time defeating Venus Williams in the final. To date, Muguruza is the lone player to defeat both Williams sisters in Grand Slam finals. Her strong consistency throughout the season was rewarded handsomely after the U.S. Open, when she reached world No. 1 for the first time. Her season also saw a title in Cincinnati, as well as five semifinals and four quarterfinals (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Toronto and Wuhan).

2018: Muguruza saw a dip in results and her year-end ranking for the first time in her career. She finished 2018 ranked No. 18 but did win a title in Monterrey. She did reach the semifinals of Roland Garros but lost in the second round at the other three majors. Still, her season was enough to qualify for the WTA Elite Trophy, where she won her round-robin group before falling in the semifinals.

2019: There were more struggles for Muguruza on and off the court, with this season being the year she and coach Sam Sumyk parted ways. Though they yielded great results on-court, their partnership at times could be viewed as volatile. Her season highlights included a defense of her Monterrey crown, as well as quarterfinal showings in Hua Hin and Indian Wells and fourth-round results at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. She ended the season ranked No. 35.

2020: Though she was on a downward trajectory entering 2020, Muguruza put any doubt in the past with a semifinal in Shenzhen, a quarterfinal in Hobart and then a surprise runner-up showing at the Australian Open. She was up a set against Sofia Kenin and at 2-2 in the third set was up 0-40 on the American’s serve, though it wasn’t meant to be. She lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Just before the COVID-19 shutdown, she made the quarterfinals in both Dubai and Doha. Upon the Tour’s resumption, she made the semifinals of Rome and finished the year ranked No. 15

2021: The year was another positive one for Muguruza, who would make five finals — her most in a single season. She was runner-up at a WTA 500 in Melbourne and Doha before winning her next three finals in Dubai, Chicago and at the end of the season at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. She also partook in the Tokyo Olympics, where she just missed out on the medal rounds, losing to Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals. Again, her consistency saw a return to the top 10, and she ended the year ranked No. 3.

2022: The final full season of Muguruza’s career didn’t see any finals or semifinals, but three quarterfinal finishes in Sydney, Doha and Tokyo. She would struggle with injuries, illness and motivation throughout the season, which saw her finish No. 55 in the year-end rankings.

2023: Muguruza would participate in only four tournaments in 2023, yielding an 0-4 record. She was up 6-0, 5-2 against Bianca Andreescu in her first match of the year in Adelaide, but lost 11 of the next 13 games and was one point away from holding triple match point in the second set. She lost again in Adelaide the following week to Belinda Bencic in straight sets before bowing out at the Australian Open to Elise Mertens in another narrow loss. Muguruza accepted a wild card into the WTA 250 in Lyon but fell 6-1, 6-4 to Linda Noskova. In April, she announced she would be taking an extended break from the Tour, citing motivation and her mental health. She would never step on the court again and ended the year ranked No. 1,056.

Muguruza will be missed by many. When she was on, she was a joy to watch. When you think of Spaniards throughout the history of the game, she was anything but. She took the ball early, hit super hard and flat, and maintained her aggression throughout the course of the match. She had all of the tools for a long, illustrious career, and I hope we’ll see her in Newport in 2028.

Muchas gracias, Garbiñe! Onto links!

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This week in women’s tennis

Elena Rybakina might not have a driver’s license, but she’s taking home a Porsche after winning the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix over Marta Kostyuk. The doubles title went to Chan Hao-Ching and Veronika Kudermetova, who needed a match tiebreaker to overcome Ulrikke Eikeri and Ingrid Neel.

Sloane Stephens continues to find some of her best tennis on the French red clay. She captured the Capfinances Rouen Métropole over Magda Linette for her first WTA 250 since Guadalajara in 2022. Timea Babos and Irina Khromacheva captured the doubles title with a straight-sets win over Naiktha Bains and Maia Lumsden.

Suzan Lamens won the biggest title of her career at the WTA 125 Oeiras Ladies Open, defeating Clara Tauson in a three-set battle. Sisters Matilde and Francisca Jorge gave the home crowd some glory, defeating Kristina Mladenovic and Harriet Dart to win the biggest title of their careers, as well.

The ATP and WTA announced Tiebreak, a new video game that will be on PC and multiple gaming systems featuring 100 players in its lineup.

Jenny Brady returned to UCLA as a student coach as she rehabs from knee surgery and hopes to be back on the practice court late this summer. In other injury news, Storm Hunter had surgery for her torn Achilles and expects to be out 12 months.

Some WTA Insider gems from Stuttgart include her “Champions Corner” with Elena Rybakina, Emma Raducanu finding form a year after surgery, Ons Jabeur getting over her losing skid and Coco Gauff reflecting on a potential basketball journey instead of tennis. They also spoke with Paula Badosa on the WTA Insider podcast to discuss her injury struggles and where she sees her career going.

Danielle Collins spoke on “Good Morning America” about her pending retirement amid the best tennis of her career:

Coco Gauff added former coach Jean-Christophe Faurel to her team and hopes the reunion will be a good omen for her clay-court campaign.

Even though Saudi Arabia has its foot in tennis’s door, the future of its impact remains to be seen.

Simona Halep withdrew from Madrid, saying she needs more time to train following her comeback from her doping suspension.

Martina Navratilova shared she won’t be working with the WTA Finals in any capacity after the announcement of the move to Saudi Arabia.

Olympia is a menace, y’all:

Iga Swiatek is the latest player to mark the World No. 1 century mark — hitting her 100th week as the Tour’s top player.

Naomi Osaka sat down with Nick Kyrgios on his podcast, discussing what she’s learned throughout her career, how it’s affected her and how she’s planning to use those lessons in the future.

A name you might hear in the future? Briseis Bush, the 10-year-old daughter of former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.

As she continues press for Challengers, Zendaya honored Venus and Serena Williams with a Vogue photo shoot similar to one they did early in their careers.

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Five at The IX: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

Q. You know, you had that very, very difficult three-tournament swing through the Middle East, just a lot of matches, from Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai and Miami, you were playing a lot of those long matches. Do you feel like that experience of kind of pushing your body that hard physically is kind of paying off? It felt like this week, even though you played so many three-set matches, you seemed quite fresh despite the fact that …

ELENA RYBAKINA: Well, honestly, when I woke up today, I didn’t feel fresh. First few steps, everything was in pain. [Smiling.] But I think you kind of also get used to this kind of soreness.

I would say since I was sick in Indian Wells I didn’t play for, like, 10 days before Miami. Of course it’s not ideal to come to the tournament and just push yourself physically [for] all these matches. These matches are easier when you know you had a good block of preparation.

As I said before, I think throughout these long matches, if I’m managing to win it, I’m also getting fitter. So it’s kind of 50/50. Of course you don’t want to be injured, and it’s better to be prepared 100%, but now also my preparation was a little bit short for clay season, but I had really great matches here. So, yeah, I think that’s a good start on clay season, and hopefully I can continue like this and I will have all this patience for all these long rallies and long matches for the rest of the tournaments.

Q. Marta, would you then consider this week what you said in terms of what you were able to pull off this week, is this week a breakthrough week for you in terms of what you were able to accomplish? Does it feel that way?

MARTA KOSTYUK: It’s much shorter tournament than a Grand Slam, even though it’s a very high-level tournament. So I don’t know, you know, because, you know, tennis itself, it’s very different every day, every tournament.

You know, I can play a 500 and play four out of five matches against top-10 players, but [Zheng] Qinwen this year in Australia, she made it to the final of Australia without facing top-50 player.

You know, so you don’t know, you know. Is it enough to win a Grand Slam when you play final of this tournament or not? Or you need to perform better? It’s like I don’t measure these things if, you know, it was a breakthrough or not, because I had really a lot of incredible weeks this year, and they were all very different, very different level of players, but some weeks I was overcoming more stuff, you know, some weeks less.

But I don’t probably measure it in a way if it was a breakthrough or not, because it was an amazing week, and I went through a lot of things and I managed to push through and come out on the other side better. This is the only thing I’m focusing on.

But I don’t really take this as something like incredible, you know, like, wow, week of my life or whatever. No, of course it was a great week, but I’m moving on.

Q. You’ve performed pretty consistently well on clay. Maybe not necessarily results-wise, but the level that you play and the way you kind of employ your game on the surface seems probably a little bit more natural than people maybe think that you would. Is that how you feel on this surface? What do you think it is about clay that does bring out a good quality of tennis in you?

EMMA RADUCANU: Yeah, I think it’s a combination. I think it’s, one, low expectations. You go out there, you’re, like, OK, we have like two, three clay courts in Great Britain that we can use maybe and practice on it for two weeks. Hey, let’s give it a go.

It’s a combination of that, but it’s also I think since a young age I always love moving on this surface. I love sliding. I feel like I’m pretty good at sliding on both legs, which is a strength.

I think the fitter I get and the more clean my technique gets, the more I’m able to kind of stay in the longer points and generate from further back, whereas I feel maybe before I was having to hug the baseline, play a hard-court game on clay as well.

It works sometimes, but it doesn’t always work. I feel like I’m developing more versatility in the way I play. I can adjust. I can adapt. That’s a big strength, because, yeah, certain things, I would say, you get into a match and they don’t work from the initial plan, so you have to change something. You can completely switch the dynamics of a match sometimes. Not all the time, but yeah, it just helps with that.

Q. Given everything you have just said and having some tough results this year, how did you turn that around today?

ONS JABEUR: I kept doing what I was doing the last matches. You know, keep fighting. Maybe the light will come up somehow. [Smiling.]

It was really, really tough, because I think the second set I didn’t even believe that I could win, but, you know, I remember there was a woman, I know you’re going to win, and the team was supporting me.

You know, these moments, you just need one or two chances, one or two points that would make you believe again.

And it’s OK. You know, it happens. I don’t believe players that go, “I always believe.”

No, you have this belief somehow. [Smiling.] I feel like it’s my duty, and to be honest, for the next generation when they watch you, not to think that everything is perfect on the court. No, there are some tough moments, some up and downs, but the most important thing is that you give it all on the court.

I did that in Charleston, but I lost and I’m doing it right now, and I’m keep going and I keep practicing. Even some days I’m not motivated at all. I have thought about withdrawing from this tournament so many times because I couldn’t take another loss. You know, it was very, very difficult.

Q. You have always talked about how you played basketball alongside playing tennis, and obviously you chose tennis, ultimately. Obviously back in the States the WNBA, NCAA with Caitlin Clark and Kamilla [Cardoso], everybody, it’s blowing up everything. I’m curious if you think back to what would have happened had you chosen basketball and what your thoughts are about kind of where, yeah, just this moment for women’s basketball in the States?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, it’s funny because my dad was actually talking about that. He was like, “You would have been right up there. You would have been a sophomore. I would have had you shooting J’s and everything.”

Yeah, I don’t know if I would be that type of player, but I will say if I could go in another life I would love to play on the same time as Caitlin Clark just to see if I could guard her. Obviously now I definitely couldn’t, but I don’t know, if I trained for it, just to see.

I will say, like, the movement to basketball and tennis is very similar with the change of direction, so I feel like, you know, most tennis players would not be so bad at defense if they knew how to play basketball, but offense, no.

It’s very exciting to see the women’s game especially in basketball getting as much traction now. They definitely deserve it. I’ve been Instagram mutuals with some of the girls. Cameron Brink just signed with New Balance. And Angel Reese, had some DMs with her, and same with Caitlin and Paige Bueckers.

I’m really excited. I’m trying to go to a game. I hope they expand, because it’s only like 12 teams right now, so it’s tough with the tennis life to travel to a game, but I did meet some of the Atlanta Dream players when I did an exhibition, I believe it was last year.

Honestly, I watched every game. I had my alarm set for the March Madness. I’m really excited to see how they transition into the W. I think it’s just great and exciting.

I know tennis has been there, and I’m just excited to see these incredible athletes get the recognition that they deserve, and I think on the whole it will uplift our sport and other sports, like women’s soccer and all that.

I think it’s great that people are paying attention to it. I’m just really excited to see Caitlin Clark’s first game, and Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso. I’m really excited to see them on the same team too.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon