After two exciting weeks, the Women’s Australian Open Final is upon us with two unlikely participants battling for the trophy. Two-time slam champion Garbine Muguruza had been on a dreadful run of form before this tournament but could move to being one slam away from a career grand slam if she beats first-time finalist Sofia Kenin.
Muguruza’s transformation throughout this tournament has been remarkable given her shaky start. She lost her opening set to Shelby Rogers 6-0 but has been on a tear since then, beating three of the best defensive players on the tour on her way to the final. She dropped a combined nine games to Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens over the weekend before toughing out a 7-6 7-5 win against Simona Halep in the semi final. It could have easily been a straight sets loss with the Spaniard saving set points in the opener and having to break to stay in the second set. For a player who ended her 2019 with seven losses from her last eight matches, the improvement in on-court play and mental strength has to be applauded. “It’s tough to say really what’s the little difference,” Muguruza said after her win. “I guess maybe structuring better the points, using more my weapons. It’s literally, like, a half-second or one shot the difference. It’s very delicate. It’s also a lot about confidence, the way you’re playing. ”
For much of the second week of this tournament, it felt like the tournament was going to be a coronation for the World No.1 and home favourite Ashleigh Barty as seeds continued to fall. However, Kenin sunk the Australian’s hopes with a shock 7-6 7-5 win. Kenin has been improving rapidly and is becoming one of the best counterpunchers on the tour but just as impressive is her mental toughness. It was on show once again in this match as she held her nerve to save set point in both sets. “I believed I could win even though I had two set points down in the first and second,” Kenin said afterwards. I could literally feel, I was telling myself, I believe in myself. If I lose the set, I’m still going to come out and believe. Yeah, I really did a great job with it. I didn’t give up. I knew it was a tough match. Of course, some things didn’t go my way with the challenges and some great shots she came up with. But I didn’t let that stop me.
“I think she is playing great, I think since a while she’s just progressing up in the rankings and in the results. So I think she deserves to be in the final with the tennis she has been showing.” Muguruza said of her opponent. While Kenin does lead the head to head 1-0, her win in Beijing did come in the aforementioned awful end to 2019 for Muguruza. The former No.1 looks to be much happier and much more confident on court after reuniting with coach Conchita Martinez and at her best, was always one of the best attacking players on tour. Should her standards slip however, Kenin is well placed to take advantage and looks unlikely to be fazed by the big moment on Saturday. The American is 3-1 in finals so far in her career although they have all come at international level. Kenin makes her top 10 breakthrough on Monday win or lose while Muguruza will be No. 12 if she is victorious.
Prediction – Garbine Muguruza in straight sets