Bianca Andreescu 12, Garbine Muguruza 1. That was the plain numerical reality of a shocking beatdown on Wednesday in Indian Wells. I didn’t see the match on television since I spent the day at the Phoenix ATP challenger event, but when any player wins a Premier Mandatory quarterfinal by allowing only one game to a multi-major champion, it is news. When that player is an 18-year-old who was ranked No. 152 two months earlier, it is bigger news.
Bianca Andreescu 12, Garbine Muguruza 1. This is a result we will continue to reference and think about in women’s tennis as the 2019 season continues. The fascinating aspect of this reality: Why will we reference it? More precisely: Are we going to look back on this result as an aberration, an indicator, a wake-up call, a warning shot, something in between, or any combination of the above?
This is the kind of result which raises far more questions than it can answer in the present moment.
I would be lying to you if I said I had clear and confident answers to any of the following questions:
Does this mean Andreescu, who has been absolutely sensational in 2019, is headed for superstardom?
Her tennis is undeniably impressive, summed up well in this tweet from Chris Oddo:
Andreescu, to me, is like a pitcher with a 97 MPH fastball that also has a wicked change-up. Can create illusions with her variety.
— Chris Oddo (@TheFanChild) March 13, 2019
When Andreescu first began to gain attention on the main tour this year in January, her ability to beat a series of players with noticeably different playing styles earned notice. She adapts and adjusts and can win in different ways. That will give her more resources, but being able to thrash Muguruza, 12-1, is something beyond “resourceful.” It is imposing.
Was this match more about Andreescu or Muguruza? One player was locked in, and the other was obviously locked out. Is this a sign of how meteoric a rise Andreescu is crafting, or how limited Muguruza remains? Muguruza had benefited from Serena Williams’ health problems in the third round, but then she battled past Kiki Bertens, a top-10 player, in the fourth round. Winning a tough, complicated match against a quality opponent is something Muguruza had not done very often in recent months. It was the kind of taste-your-own-blood-but-prevail conquest an elite athlete often needs when struggling. That kind of win can revive the inner giant inside an athlete.
Muguruza won that prolonged battle and then got obliterated. Such a puzzle.
Muguruza probably would have taken an Indian Wells quarterfinal if you had offered it to her before the tournament, but now that quarterfinal result doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying. What is next for this constantly enigmatic player? Your guess is as good as mine.
Another basic but important question one has to ask after “Andreescu 12, Muguruza 1”: What do we make of Kiki Bertens right now? That match against Muguruza had its moments of excellence, but it contained plenty of hiccups and false starts as well. What appeared like a good win for Muguruza might now feel more like an indication of how inconsistent Bertens has been since her impressive summer-and-autumn run last year. Bertens, like Aryna Sabalenka, is searching for her best tennis after a highly productive second half of the previous season, the “Caroline Garcia” puzzle the Frenchwoman couldn’t solve in 2018.
So many questions, so few answers. We will see how the rest of 2019 changes the way we perceive Bianca Andreescu 12, Garbine Muguruza 1.