Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today’s match-up will be the second meeting between the recent Australian Open runner-up Li Na and rising Spanish star Garbiñe Muguruza, who’s only 19 years old.
Here is path both women had to go through to arrive to today’s meeting:
Notice how Li Na hasn’t come close to losing a set in Miami, even though this is her first tournament since the Australian Open. China’s number one suffered a bad ankle injury during that final, and had to miss the two Premier events in the Middle East, as well as Indian Wells, as a consequence.
Garbiñe Muguruza is following up her excellent Indian Wells run, where she made it all the way to the fourth round (lost to Kerber) after having to play qualies. Fortunately for her, Miami gave her a wildcard into the main draw, and the young Spaniard has not wasted the opportunity. Naturally, her biggest win is the 2 and 4 demolition of Caroline Wozniacki, who was coming off a runner-up performance at Indian Wells. It has to be said that this is the first time during this American hard court run that Muguruza will be on a TV court, even though she’s played top-10 opposition twice (Kerber at Indian Wells, Wozniacki in Miami).
As I mentioned above, this will be the second meeting between these two women. Their head-to-head, looks like this:
About that lone match, played last year on the horrid blue “clay” of Madrid, the match facts tell a few interesting things:
– Muguruza created 15 (!!!) break point chances during the match! Four more than Li Na, even. Naturally, the lack of experience probably cost her dearly in the big points of that match. The pressure of playing in her home country probably didn’t help, either.
– Even though the blue “clay” helped players with big serves, Muguruza managed to win only 42% of points played with her first serve.
Three Things to Watch For:
1. Will Muguruza be able to dominate with her serve? That’s her big weapon, and getting easy holds will be paramount against an elite opponent today.
2. How will Muguruza cope with Stadium 1? As I mentioned above, this is the first time Garbiñe playes in a TV court, and in this case, she’s going from playing on Court 2 to the main stage of this Premier Mandatory event. It will probably help Muguruza that she probably won’t have to deal with a huge crowd: not many people show up for the very first match of the day on Stadium 1.
3. How will the young Spaniard deal with adversity? Muguruza will be playing a top 5 player who seems to be intent on continuing her good showing in Australia. It’s inevitable that the 19 year-old will face adversity today, and it will be interesting to see how Muguruza deals with it. Will she fold, or will she keep trying to find a way back into the match?
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
As in previous LiveAnalysis posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
UFE: Unforced Error
The women are on court, and it’s a little worrying to see that huge bandage over Muguruza’s thigh:
First Set – Garbiñe Muguruza will serve first.
0-0: Muguruza wins the first point after a Li Na BH UFE. However, the former French Open champion is getting a ton of depth on her shots, and it’s 15-40 in the blink of an eye. Li Na is all over Muguruza’s serve, too. She goes for a huge return, and barely misses. 30-40. But Li Na then gets great depth on a FH, forces the error, and gets the first break of the match.
I wouldn’t chalk that up to nerves, really. Li Na missed two shots. Everything else was excellent from the World Number 5. About that crowd…
@juanjo_sports I actually don't think you can consider the amount of people there a "crowd"
— Ang (@4AllSurfaces) March 25, 2013
1-0, Li Na: At 15-all, the women play the point of the match – they clobbered the ball and painted the lines almost on every shot. It ends with a great Muguruza CC FH winner off a really deep Li Na FH. That was nice. Moments later, Li Na commits a BH UFE, and Muguruza has a BP. 30-40. The young Spaniard got a great I-O FH return in…but then botched the CC FH. Deuce #1. A DF gives Muguruza another shot at getting back on serve, but Garbiñe sends a 2nd serve return long. She’s pressing a bit, which is normal, given the occasion. Li Na goes on the offensive, and battles to a tough hold.
Well, the adversity came earlier than expected, but so far, Muguruza has shown that she’ll keep fighting. She didn’t play those two BPs particularly well, which kind of follows the trend of that Madrid match from last year.
2-0, Li Na: A fantastic service game from Muguruza, who is not letting her early disadvantage affect her game. A very, very nice thing to see from a top prospect. Nothing like a love hold to steel the nerves.
2-1, Li Na: Li Na races to a 40-0 lead after serving very, very well. At 15-0 she hit a most wonderful 2nd serve up the T that few people would’ve returned. After a great Muguruza return makes it 40-15, another fantastic Li Na serve clinches the hold.
3-1, Li Na: One thing I’m liking a lot is Muguruza’s determination to stay close to the baseline during rallies, even if Li Na is getting such great depth consistently. One thing that’s problematic for Garbiñe so far is that she’s not getting any easy points off her serve. Li Na is getting almost every single one of them back. At deuce, Muguruza gets a big serve in, but Li Na gets a really deep return back, and forces the error. BP for Li Na, who gets another great return in, forces the error, and is up a double break.
As in Madrid, Li Na is winning all the big points. She hasn’t wasted a single BP chance, and she saved both BPs she faced on her own serve. That’s been the difference, as it was in Madrid.
Also, Li Na’s return of serve has been superb. Asphyxiating, even.
— Genny SS (@genny_ss) March 25, 2013
— Win or Lose, I WIN (@WinOrLoseIWin) March 25, 2013
4-1, Li Na: Li Na holds comfortably to 15. Fairly uneventful.
5-1, Li Na: Muguruza has a 40-15 edge, and it seems like a 2nd hold is likely. Li Na sends a BH just long, and the young Spaniard has held.
STATS UPDATE: As in Madrid, Li Na is eating up Muguruza’s 1st serve: the Spaniard has won only 4 of 12 points played on that shot. Interestingly enough, Muguruza has won 5 of 6 points played on her 2nd serve. The big difference with Madrid is Garbiñe’s returning so far: last year, she created 15 BPs. Today, she’s managed 2 already, but the bigger issue is that Li Na has only lost 5 points on serve so far.
Both women have the same number of UFEs: 15.
5-2, Li Na: Li Na starts with an UFE and then follows it up with a DF. Then Muguruza makes it 15-30 after she sends a return long. A FH UFE makes it 30-all. That was a decent half-chance, there. Actually, it’s a full blown chance, as Li Na DFs again to give Muguruza a BP. 3rd of the match. It will be on a 2nd serve. It was a good one, but Muguruza’s return was better, and it triggers an error. Muguruza gets one of the breaks back.
That was an awful service game from Li Na – by far the worst of the match for her. But still, that was great to see from Muguruza, who keeps plugging along, even if things aren’t going her way. Nice to see from a young player.
5-3, Li Na: Muguruza finally starts getting some easy points off her serve, and she holds easily to 15.
One thing I’ve noticed so far is that Muguruza’s service placement was not all that great until recently. She was getting 1st serves in, but they were far from the corners, and were also dropping a bit short. In that last game, Garbiñe placed those serves deeper and closer to the lines, and the results were evident. Something to monitor.
5-4, Li Na: Li Na starts with a BH DTL UFE. Her first serve has deserted her: she’s serving at 38% 1st serves. Now error, off a nice, deep groundstroke by Muguruza. But, Li Na rights the ship with a beauty of a BH DTL winner. 15-30. Now, another DF. 15-40, and suddenly, Muguruza has two chances to get back on serve. She only needs one, as Li Na sends a FH UFE way long. Muguruza has clawed back from down 2 breaks!
This is the full Li Na experience, so far. She was zoning at the beginning of the match, and now she’s a UFE-laden mess. Great job by Muguruza of staying in the match, waiting for her opportunities.
5-5, Li Na: A BH CC UFE by Li Na makes it 30-all. Earlier, Muguruza collected her first ace of the match. But a weak 1st serve gets punished, and she’s now facing a BP for the first time in a while. Muguruza corrects the error immediately, with a nice wide serve that leaves a BH DTL wide open. Deuce. Then, a great body serve that jams Li Na completely. AD Muguruza. But, just as the teenager had her first ace in the match, she now DFs for the first time in the match. Deuce #2. Another great wide serve, this time from the deuce court, and it’s AD Muguruza again. Li Na goes for a huge FH return, and barely misses. That was a tough, tough hold for Muguruza.
Great poise by the 19 year-old. She weathered the storm early, and patiently waited for Li Na to go through one of her classic Li Na funks. Now Muguruza is ahead on the scoreboard for the first time in the match.
6-5, Muguruza: Garbiñe was up 15-30, but sends a BH into the net. 30-all. Then, a fantastic point where the two women trade missiles all over the place, and it’s Li Na who comes up with the decisive FH CC that forces the error. Then…a blistering DTL FH winner from Muguruza. Things are heating up all of a sudden! At deuce, Muguruza mis-times a CC BH, so Li Na has a chance to hold, which she does.
Tiebreak City, here we come!
TIEBREAKER – Garbiñe Muguruza will serve first.
0-0: They trade blows, and it’s Li Na who blinks.
1-0, Muguruza: Service winner by Li Na. Muguruza went for a really big return.
1-1: Li Na comes up with a fantastic FH DTL off a CC exchange. That was beautiful.
2-1, Li Na: A fantastic CC BH by Li Na forces Muguruza’s error. MINIBREAK.
3-1, Li Na: Li Na gets a look at a short ball, and drives an I-O FH for a clear winner. MINIBREAK.
4-1, Li Na: Another short return, off a very good serve, and Li Na collects another simple FH winner.
5-1, Li Na: Li Na clips the baseline again.
6-1, Li Na: A service winner from Muguruza. Sorely needed.
6-2, Li Na: Li Na’s shot gets called out, she doesn’t challenge, and we see that it clipped the line. Interesting. MINIBREAK.
6-3, Li Na: Muguruza forces a Li Na BH into the net, and things get really interesting here.
6-4, Li Na: Now, a Li Na UFE. She really should have challenged that shot. MINIBREAK
6-5, Li Na: Service winner for Muguruza. Amazing comeback. But…Li Na should have won this set already.
6-6: Garbiñe cracks, sends a BH DTL way long, and Li Na will have yet another SP. MINIBREAK
7-6, Li Na: A nice service winner up the T clinches the set. At least justice was served…that shot at 6-2 should have clinched the set for her.
Well, Li Na definitely found her form at the right times, even though she wasted two huge leads in that set. She served for it twice, at 5-2 and 5-4, and then had all those set points in the breaker.
First set to Li Na, 7-6(8)
Here are your full 1st set stats:
Second Set – Li Na will serve first.
0-0: Muguruza gets to 30-all after Li Na commits some more UFEs, and moments later, we’re at deuce. Then, a blistering rally in which Muguruza fires missiles from all over the court, finishing with an impressive drive FH volley. She has a BP now. Muguruza played incredible defense in that point, but Li Na was just too strong. Impressive movement there. Li Nal holds after a good wrong-footing FH winner, and a Muguruza I-O FH UFE.
I love that Muguruza is not folding. At all. She keeps fighting, even though she hasn’t played all that well, and that she’s playing a top 5 opponent. Fantastic to see.
All of a sudden Muguruza has found her horizontal movement. Li was able to exploit that in patches in the first set. Not so much now.
— Josh (@TheSixthSet) March 25, 2013
1-0, Li Na: Li Na gets a fantastic return in at 15-30, and soon after, she forces Muguruza’s error. Danger for the young Spaniard. A rather soft BH error from Muguruza after another good Li Na return, and Li Na gets the early break.
That was disappointing, if understandable. Just after having a BP on Li Na’s serve, Muguruza plays a very sloppy game and drops serve. At least she knows that she came back from down two breaks in the 1st set.
2-0, Li Na: Li Na botches a simple overhead, and then Muguruza drives a BH up the middle that clips the line and forces an error from the Australian Open runner-up. 30-all, and now a BP for Muguruza, after Li Na sends a BH well long. Then, bad luck for Muguruza, who mishits a FH, leaving it well short for Li Na to pounce. It’s AD Li Na after the Chinese #1 deals admirably with a deep return by Muguruza. A service winner clinches the tough hold.
Again, Muguruza kept fighting, and once again created a BP. She leaves that Li Na service game empty handed, unfortunately.
STATS UPDATE: Muguruza is still winning a very, very low percentage of points played on her 1st serve: just 44%. Li Na is now serving at 59% 1st serves, but she almost came undone in that 1st set after that rash of UFEs. Li Na has 42 UFEs for the match, and it’s a bit troubling for her that her BH has leaked 21 of them.
3-0, Li Na: Muguruza has two chances to get on the board in the 2nd set. Li Na crushes a return on the 1st one, so it’s 40-30. Muguruza gets a look at a short ball, but nets a BH. Did not move her feet well there. However, she then opens up the court with a nice FH DTL, and puts away a simple smash. AD Muguruza. The FH DTL works again, and the Spanish teen has held.
Muguruza’s serve. All that height, and yet…..
— Tumaini (@TumCarayol) March 25, 2013
I agree. There are flashes where she gets good depth and good placement, but that’s definitely an area where Muguruza could improve. The height is there, and the talent is there.
3-1, Li Na: A rather straightforward hold to 15 by Li Na. Muguruza was a little sloppy there – had a few looks that she failed to capitalize on.
4-1, Li Na: Muguruza holds to 30 in a game that went by quite quickly.
4-2, Li Na: Li Na’s serve is humming again. There was an ace, a killer 2nd serve, and two service winners. She holds to 15.
It seems like Muguruza can’t find her way into Li Na’s service games anymore. Then again, that was the case in the first set, and Li Na completely unraveled both times she served for it. Will the same thing happen here?
5-2, Li Na: A return winner and a Muguruza forced error put Li Na 2 points away from the win. Muguruza then hits a service winner, and puts away a short FH for 30-all. However, the teen sends a FH long, and Li Na has her first MP of the match. And unfortunately, the match ends on Muguruza’s 2nd double-fault.
Game, Set and Match to Li Na, 7-6(8), 6-2.
Here are your full match stats:
Like 19-year-old Garbine Muguruza’s baseline hugging and depth of shot. Beat Wozniacki, loses to Li Na today. #tennis
— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) March 25, 2013
There is a lot to like in Garbiñe Muguruza’s game. Her easy power off both wings, her willingness to stay on the baseline during rallies, and definitely her fighting spirit, which (coupled with Li Na’s severe dip in form and her decision not to challenge a call at 6-2 in the breaker) saw the Spanish teen come back from 2 breaks down in the first set and then from 6-1 in the tiebreaker. I mentioned above that I wanted to see how Muguruza handled adversity, and she showed me plenty of good things on that front today.
Sure, there are also many things that could use some improvement. The serve, especially: Muguruza is tall, and she has incredible timing. However, her serve doesn’t have that much pop, and her placement gets her in trouble frequently. Too many 1st serves are short, and too many go right into a talented opponent’s strike zone. Garbiñe’s movement could be better, though I wonder how much that heavy bandage on her left thigh was hampering her today. She seemed to be moving better in the second set, maybe after that thigh loosened up. I also think the Spaniard’s return game could use a little more patience and consistency, particularly on second serve returns.
All in all, Garbiñe Muguruza seems like a sure thing to me. Hopefully she can get herself ranked high enough this year so she can avoid having to play qualies. Sadly, she won’t be gaining any ground after this great Miami run, since she made the fourth round last year, too. Still, there will be plenty of opportunities to add some points in the clay season, since there’s no reason why her power game won’t work on a surface on which she surely grew up on, and which gives her a little extra time to set up for shots and defend.
As for the winner of this match, Li Na looked unplayable for a significant portion of that first set. She was serving well, returning impeccably, and finding a lot of depth with almost all of her shots. And then, the World Number 5 went through one of her traditional slumps in which everything that was working well moments before was falling apart before our eyes. Li Na gave up that huge lead in the first set, and then again in the tiebreaker. For the life of me, I don’t know why Li Na didn’t challenge that shot at 6-2 in the breaker. She had all 3 challenges remaining, and the ball was reasonably close.
Anyway, Li Na played the key points of the match very well: at the end of the 1st set breaker, and at the beginning of the second set. In the latter case, Li Na faced BPs in both of her opening service games, and broke Muguruza to get a lead that she wouldn’t relinquish. Near the end of the match, the Mercedez Benz ambassador found her groove again, and it was more than enough to overcome a spirited challenge from the Spanish youngster.
Given that Li Na’s next opponent could be Serena Williams, China’s Number 1 will need to avoid those mid-match lulls if she wants to keep advancing in this event.