MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Garbine Muguruza is doing her best to stay grounded ahead of the Australian Open after a breakout 2015 season brought a wave of attention and suggestions that she was a grand slam champion in waiting.
The 22-year-old Spaniard won her second career title last year, advanced to her first grand slam final at Wimbledon and moved up the rankings to a career-best third in the world.
She also made the semi-finals of the season-ending WTA Championships in Singapore, where she acknowledged that other players of her generation had been touted as ‘the next big thing’ only to have a poor follow-up season to a breakout year.
“I think everybody’s expecting like to see, ‘hey, do better, win that, win the other one,'” Muguruza, who plays Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in the first round on Tuesday, told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“But I think it’s going to be a really hard year for me because I’ve never been in a situation (like this).
“Also, I’m like, ‘how I’m going to deal with all these new things?’ I’m actually very curious about how I’m going to feel myself when I go to the court, if I’m going to be able to be there, not think about so many things.
“I think my goal is to be calm, not get like this,” she added while making a choking gesture.
Muguruza impressed with her power last year and gave Serena Williams a scare in the fourth round at Melbourne Park when she won the first set 6-2 before the American got into gear.
The Spaniard made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros then beat four players in the top 15 on the way to her first grand slam final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Williams.
Her aggressive performance at Wimbledon drew praise, with 2013 champion Marion Bartoli suggesting it was only a matter of time before she won a grand slam.
Her chances of doing so at Melbourne Park this month have not been helped by a lack of court time so far in 2016.
Muguruza withdrew from her first match in Brisbane with a long standing foot injury that she said was at best being managed but was sure it would hold up at Melbourne Park.
“I felt the foot also last year a lot of times,” she said.
“It’s just a pain that sometimes you feel it and sometimes no. So it’s kind of hard to deal with it sometimes.
“But for now it’s good (and) … it makes you realise, oh, you have to be healthy. It’s important.”
(By Greg Stutchbury, Editing by Peter Rutherford)