Garbine Muguruza, of Spain, serves to Veronika Kudermetova, of the Russian Olympic Committee, during the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
- Garbiñe Muguruza takes on the powerful but inconsistent Elena Rybakina for a place in the Tokyo semis
- The winner will get two opportunities to play for an Olympic medal
- Muguruza is by far the more experienced of the two, and the favorite. We break down the matchup
For Garbiñe Muguruza, Tokyo is an opportunity for a do-over, after a disappointing Olympics in 2016 when she was favored to bring home at least one medal.
For Elena Rybakina, just 22, it’s a chance to make waves in her Olympic debut.
Elena Rybakina vs Garbiñe Muguruza Odds
| Elena Rybakina (KAZ)||+3.5 (-110)||+165||O 21.5 (-110)|
| Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)||-3.5 (-120)||-195||U 21.5 (-120)|
Odds as of July 27 at DraftKings
Muguruza’s odds stood at a reasonable +1000 before the tournament. Only Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka (the top three seeds) and Iga Swiatek were ahead of her.
Three of them were out by the second round, with Osaka reaching the third round.
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Good Draw for Rybakina
If there’s one player whose forward momentum was halted by the five-month coronavirus break in 2020, it was Rybakina.
She was on the rise to start 2020: a title, two finals and a 21-4 won-loss record. And then, everything stopped.
Since then, it’s been up and down. In 2021, Rybakina didn’t win back-to-back matches between the Abu Dhabi tournament in January all the way through to the French Open.
In Tokyo, she’s had a good path. Samantha Stosur was Rybakina’s victim in the first round. Then, the fairly obscure Swede Rebecca Peterson.
That left her with plenty of energy to take on Donna Vekic, who was less than 24 hours off an absolutely bruising third-set tiebreak win over No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Muguruza Back in the Top 10
The 27-year-old Spaniard had a great start to the 2021 season in Australia and the Middle East.
Since then, it’s been up and down in large part because of a recurring leg injury.
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) July 25, 2021
Muguruza faced a tough test in the first round in Veronika Kudermetova, who has all kinds of game and is just coming into her own. The 7-5, 7-5 victory made a statement.
She rolled through her next two matches.
Muguruza also played two doubles matches with frequent partner Carla Suárez Navarro, who is ending her career this year and has been a great comeback story. But they’re out now, and Muguruza can focus on her own ambition.
Elena Rybakina vs Garbiñe Muguruza Head-to-Head
|22 (June 16, 1999)||Age||27 (Oct. 7, 1993|
|Moscow, Russia||Birthplace||Caracas, Venezuela|
|2||Career WTA Singles Titles||8|
|0||Career Grand Slam Titles||2|
|No. 17 (Feb. 23, 2020)||Career High Ranking||No. 1 (Sept. 10, 2017)|
|No. 20||Current Ranking||No. 9|
|$2,310,368||Career Prize Money||$22,021,057|
|22-13||2021 Won/Loss record||30-10|
|0||Career Head to Head||1|
Olympic Ambitions Unfulfilled for Muguruza
The Spaniard’s Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio likely was a disappointment. And not only because she was due to play mixed doubles with the great Rafael Nadal – only to withdraw as he was still alive in singles and doubles.
Seeded No. 3 in the singles, she managed just two games against eventual gold medalist Monica Puig in the third round.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) August 9, 2016
Seeded No. 4 in the doubles with Suárez Navarro, they bowed out in the quarterfinals.
Beating Rybakina on Wednesday will give her a shot at a medal. And she has positive enough history against any other potential opponent she might meet the rest of the way that she will surely be eyeing the top step on the podium.
Elena Rybakina vs Garbiñe Muguruza Match History
|2021||Berlin (R16)||Grass||6-4, 6-3||Muguruza|
Muguruza the More Experienced Competitor
For Rybakina, who sometimes looks afraid of her own shadow despite how tall and strong she is, facing the two-time major champion on such a big stage may prove a daunting task.
The court is slow enough that Muguruza can chase down some of the power if she has to.
But in the end, it’s a power matchup between a pair of six-footers.
The Spaniard added some long spandex shorts to her kit in the last few days. You hope it wasn’t the leg issue popping up again. It may have been to compensate for the awkward design of her Olympic skirt, which was gaping at times and not very wind-friendly.
For Muguruza, the matchup is similar to the one against Kudermetova. Her experience should carry her through.
Best Bet: Muguruza in two sets (+115)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.