Garbine Muguruza isn’t helping herself, but she helped Tennis With An Accent. Confused? Here’s the explanation on a February Wednesday.
For this “Indian Wells Pressure Series” at Tennis With An Accent, I weighed whether to write a piece on Angelique Kerber, who lost Wednesday in Dubai to Hsieh Su-Wei. Kerber could really use a big run in Indian Wells (or Miami) to shore up her season, but after a Doha semifinal, is a Dubai flameout that big a cause for concern? I’m not sure. This isn’t 2017 for Kerber. She is playing a lot better than she did in that annus horribilis.
Yet, tennis writing — and more precisely, running a tennis website — demands constant content to keep Google News indexes happy. That is a part of the business I have learned to accept over time. I could have provided a short piece saying Kerber’s loss to Hsieh wasn’t too much of a reason to be concerned. However, that’s not a sexy story. I waited to see if another juicier story would emerge.
Muchisimas Gracias, Garbine Muguruza.
I am not happy that she lost, but this is a more interesting story to write — I cannot hide from that claim.
Ed Salmon, whose succinct summaries often express everything one needs to know about a match in a single literary stroke, offered this essential summary of Muguruza’s lopsided loss to Elina Svitolina:
Svitolina can hardly find a first serve but still cruises past an extremely erratic, morose Muguruza, 61 62 in 63 minutes in Dubai.
— Ed Salmon (@fogmount) February 20, 2019
Saqib Ali has had Ed on our TWAA Podcast. Saqib has also invited Tumaini Carayol onto his show, and Tumaini made this perceptive observation after Muguruza’s misery deepened in Dubai:
I think there have been plenty of times where Sumyk has come on with real pointers and Muguruza has pretty much ignored him, other times *this*.
With the constant coaching changes, it's just incredible to me that this is the one that has endured.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) February 20, 2019
The notion that Muguruza carries pressure into Indian Wells might ring hollow for some. Muguruza’s year is based on doing well at Roland Garros first, then Wimbledon. However, part of the point here is that Muguruza should be a better hardcourt player. She should thrive on any surface. She has the game made for it — if that game can ever be unlocked, and her talent can reemerge.
If Muguruza does nothing in Indian Wells or Miami, she will have nothing to rely on, nothing to trust, heading into clay season. She could flip the switch again, as she has done in the past, but a player with her talent — her high ceiling when everything is going well — should not settle for being good at a small number of tournaments per year.
Relative to Tumaini Carayol’s point about the relationship with coach Sam Sumyk, Indian Wells (and Miami) should become a time where Muguruza either regains trust in this partnership, or decides to cut the cord before clay season and seek a new voice. That’s the value of Indian Wells and the March Premier Mandatory swing in the United States: Either Muguruza gains fresh reason to buy what Sumyk is selling, or she goes on the market in search of a new coach.