By Nicholas J. Walz, USOpen.org
Throughout the year, USOpen.org will feature up-and-coming players of all ages who could make deep runs at the 2014 US Open. Here’s a look at 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who recently defeated Serena Williams en route to the French Open quarterfinals.
The Baseline: Muguruza made an impact on the international stage at the 2014 French Open, handing Serena Williams her most lopsided Grand Slam setback, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round. The 20-year-old, who was born in Venezuela and who lives in and represents Spain, backed that up by advancing to the quarterfinals, where she was nearly toppled Maria Sharapova, falling to the eventual champion, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The result, coming on the heels of a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open – where she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the third round – marked the talented Muguruza as one of the foremost players to watch in the women’s game.
The Breakdown: Like the Williams sisters, Muguruza played sparingly in junior events – only one Grand Slam appearance in girls’ singles, the 2010 French Open – before turning pro in 2011, and her ascent was halted when she missed nearly the entire second half of 2013, including the US Open, due to an ankle injury.
But in 2014, backed by a powerful serve and forehand, Muguruza has established herself as a contender on any surface. She claimed her first WTA title as a qualifier at the Australian Open tune-up in Hobart, Australia, winning eight matches without dropping a set, and also reached the final on hard courts in Florianopolis, Brazil. And on clay, she reached the semis in Marrakesh, Morocco, in addition to her run in Roland Garros.
Now ranked at a career-best No. 27, a strong swing through Wimbledon, followed by the summer hard- court season in the U.S., could very well lead to Muguruza being a Top 16 seed once she arrives in New York. Her path has run parallel with fellow 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard: strong runs in Melbourne and Paris, which are now leading to larger expectations going forward and talk of a new guard emerging in the women’s game.