Garbine Muguruza, the former world number one who conquered Africa’s tallest mountain during the offseason, is hoping to achieve new heights at the Australian Open after falling down the world rankings in 2019.
The Venezuelan-born Spaniard recovered from a mid-match collapse against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic to advance to the third round at Melbourne Park on Thursday, winning 6-3 3-6 6-3 in the early match at Rod Laver Arena.
The strong start at the year’s first Grand Slam comes after a poor end to the 2019 season, which included first-round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open.
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The 26-year-old cut her season short, switched her rackets for crampons, and flew to Tanzania with a buddy to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a five-day adventure that included scaling rocks, wading through ice rivers, and sleeping under the stars.
“It was a really difficult test,” Muguruza, who is currently ranked number 32 in the world, told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“You’re ascending that mountain by yourself. You don’t get any kind of medal, reward, photo, or anything up there.
“Seeing yourself in the midst of nowhere and, yeah, just having one clear notion to keep going” is something I enjoy.
Muguruza, who was once one of the tour’s most feared opponents and the only woman to defeat both Serena and Venus Williams in Grand Slam finals, has slowly faded from view.
Muguruza reached the semi-finals of the 2018 French Open after winning Wimbledon in 2017, the second of her two major championships, but has not advanced farther in the Grand Slams since.
Muguruza split with her long-time coach, Sam Sumyk, in July, and completed the season outside the top 20 for the first time since 2014.
With a viral infection, the former French Open winner withdrew out of the Hobart International in the lead-up to Melbourne Park, bringing some gloom into the new year.
In her first round encounter against qualifier Shelby Rogers, she dropped the first set 6-0 due to a lack of match practice before steamrolling the American.
Muguruza has yet to exhibit her vintage best in Melbourne, reuniting with her mentor Conchita Martinez, the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon, but her battling spirit was enough to cope with Tomljanovic.
“You, like everyone else, put in a lot of effort. You put in the hours “She expressed her delight at the hard-fought victory.
“Nothing is certain, so you make the most of the situation.”