When the season began in January, all eyes were on Garbiñe Muguruza, and most of them liked what they saw.
The previous fall, the 22-year-old Spaniard had hired a new coach in Sam Sumyk, and by year’s end she had shot up to No. 3 in the rankings. Muguruza had the height, she had the power, she had a star’s self-assurance, she had a win over Serena, she’d reached a Wimbledon final, and she was entering her prime: If anyone on the WTA tour was going to break through and win her first Grand Slam in 2016, it was going to be her.
Then 2016 began and the Muguruza rocket took a steep and immediate nosedive. All of the promise of the fall now appeared to be a mirage. The deep runs at big events gave way to early losses. The self-assurance and star quality were replaced by a puzzling listlessness. And instead of singing Sumyk’s praises, as she had in 2015, Muguruza was aiming sarcastic comments—such as the now-infamous “tell me something I don’t know”—at him in public.
But if we’ve learned anything about the top players in this roller-coaster WTA season, it’s that while peaks lead to valleys, valleys will lead back to peaks. Serena Williams excepted, whoever’s up will soon be down, and whoever’s down will soon be up.
Take Muguruza and Angelique Kerber. While Muguruza was sleepwalking through a third-round loss at the Australian Open, Kerber was coming from virtually nowhere to win the year’s first major. Five months later, at the year’s second major, their fortunes have been reversed. The third-seeded Kerber went out in her opening match, while Muguruza, after an impressively stubborn and clutch 7-5, 6-3 win over Shelby Rogers on Wednesday, is into her first French Open semifinal.