By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard share many similarities, having taken women’s tennis by storm in their respective breakout years.
But Spain’s Muguruza is hoping that her “second-season” form does not follow that of her Canadian rival, who has struggled to maintain the standards she set in 2014.
Like Bouchard before her, the talented 22-year-old has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season, reaching her first grand slam final and qualifying for the WTA finals with some aggressive tennis.
But while Wimbledon finalist Muguruza powered past Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-4 in impressive style to make it two wins from two at the eight-woman end-of-season event in Singapore on Wednesday, Bouchard was no doubt already wishing for 2016.
After a standout 2014, in which she reached the Wimbledon final and Australian and French semis, ending the year seventh in the world, the 21-year-old Canadian has won just 12 matches this year and fallen to world number 48.
When Muguruza was asked how far she might be able to go in the game, the Venezuela-born rising star was understandably mindful of the difficulties the Canadian had encountered.
“It’s an example of something that can happen, obviously,” world number three Muguruza told reporters.
“I think it’s hard to manage a lot of things. I saw an example in Genie. It’s not a good example. But hopefully, I can manage better these kind of situations and avoid, a little bit, my spirit going down (and) try not to let this happen to me.”
In the absence of fatigued world number one Serena Williams, Muguruza is second seed in Singapore and along with Russia’s Maria Sharapova, has been the standout performer, winning both her opening round-robin matches.
She faces double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in her final White Group match, in which she can even afford a three-set defeat and progress to the last four.
Her preparation for Friday’s contest features a must-win doubles match with compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro against Taiwan pair Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan on Thursday.
“Well, for sure it’s a challenge to come here and play singles and doubles,” Muguruza said.
“I know that. But I’m really motivated on both sides, so hopefully, I can … win as much as I can in both singles and doubles. I know I will be more tired, for sure. It’s a risk I take.”
Carefree and personable, with an aggressive style and an ability to crunch winners from both sides, Muguruza has raced up the singles rankings after starting the year at 21.
She won the biggest title of her career at the China Open in Beijing a fortnight ago after reaching the final at Wuhan the week before and has also won two doubles tournaments with Navarro.
The step up to play in her first WTA Finals has been something she has taken easily in her lengthy stride.
“Definitely, I’m feeling very good. You never know how it’s going to go here when you come for the first time,” she said.
“For sure I’m very happy at how it is going. Hopefully, I can keep playing like this.”
And avoid the pitfalls that befell her young rival this year.
(Editing by Neville Dalton)