The world number four struggled to build any momentum, and was frustrated by an excellent opponent in the form of Christina McHale on Saturday afternoon.
First set nervy, fast-paced and unpredictable
Considering her inconsistent form in 2016, it came as no surprise that Muguruza found herself constantly on the back foot as she tried to contend with McHale’s direct style of play, where the plucky American was aiming to hit forehand winners whenever the chance arose. Rallies were fast-paced and so unpredictable that you could virtually hear the crowd holding their breath, but as McHale found some momentum with her array of shot-selection, it was obvious that Muguruza was starting to get frustrated and understandably so.
Garbiñe’s main weakness is the amount of unforced errors she makes, either through sloppy play or just poor decision-making. That was on-show for all to see in the California sunshine, because she was often overthinking simple shots you’d expect a player of her calibre to play, and McHale was ruthless especially as the match continued to intensify.
Second set, plenty of errors – only one winner
Having smashed her racket in anger after somehow managing to lose the first set, despite recovering from a precarious situation initially, Muguruza was under the cosh and a rally in the first game of the second set just reiterated the momentum shift. Having done well to stretch sharply and cut underneath the ball within an instant to play a drop volley, McHale showed great footwork to latch onto the ball just moments before it’d have bounced twice, and wrongfooted the Spaniard with cool composure.
The crowd were in awe: how did she manage to do that, so quickly too? Muguruza looked beaten and disappointed, and a succession of unforced errors helped Christina take control of the match itself, where she was utilising her tireless energy to confidently dispatch of Garbiñe, eventually sealed her place in the next round with a well-taken forehand winner.
Time for reflection
After the match, Muguruza reflected on a frustrating individual display from herself – but took no credit away from McHale, who was excellent and showed her quality in efficient style once more. She said that Christina was playing “very good”, and even though the first set was “tough and difficult”, her energy “went a little bit down”, which made it easier for McHale to exploit later in the second set.
“Obviously you’re frustrated when you’re trying and you don’t find really what you want to do and you see yourself [behind] 3-0 in the second set. Obviously it was frustration.”
McHale meanwhile, said that she “loves playing” at Indian Wells, partly because of the energy displayed from supporters, but also the fact that they “really get behind the American players” too. “I think the surface suits my style of play. [The ball] gets up pretty high on these courts, so I think it helps my style of play.”