Garbine Muguruza’s positive body language and winning smile is back after a difficult French Open, and her grass court campaign was significantly helped when the dangerous Coco Vandeweghe had to retire from their Aegon Classic quarter-final in Birmingham at one set all due to a foot injury.
While Vandeweghe’s preparations for Wimbledon will now be shaped by her injury, Muguruza is heading into last four meeting with former Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia. Muguruza is the highest seeded player left in the tournament and having reached the Wimbledon singles final in 2015, she has already shown an ability to bring her heavy groundstroke game to grass and can be a real title contender at The Championships.
Muguruza was expecting a tough clash with Vandeweghe and admitted "I just tried to play my game, tried to stay aggressive, tried to be very concentrated on the serve. And that's it. I didn't even realise she was going to retire. I saw her at the net. I was like really keep fighting and keep playing. The more matches we play, the more you are ready. Everybody knows that. But honestly, it doesn't mean that you're going to go far in Wimbledon.
“I think there's good things about experience, but one of the things is you kind of are more consistent. When you're young and talented, you can have a breakthrough week and after, you can't play. So the good thing about that is we know maybe how to manage more when you go winning into a tournament, and you've been there before, so you know what to do.”
Vandeweghe revealed she is going to have a scan on the foot and said: “Well, I'm scheduled to get an MRI tomorrow. So we'll find out exactly the root of it. But it's unfortunate, the timing, and hopefully I can recover as soon as possible. I think any injury is cause for concern, but once I get the exact information, I can make a collective decision as far as rehab and being as prepared as possible for Wimbledon. ”
Barty is excited about facing Muguruza and is taking confidence from her past success on grass and said: "I always love coming on the grass and have had good success and obviously have some really nice memories from Wimbledon, and I think that's really special knowing that you only get two or three weeks to prepare for Wimbledon. So you really have to make the most of it.”
The other semi-final is an all-Czech contest between Fed Cup team mates and good friends Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon singles champion, and Lucie Safarova, a former semi-finalist at the Championships.
After saving two match points earlier on in the tournament against Dominika Cibulkova, Safarova went one better here against Daria Gavrilova, saving three before prevailing 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(5). Safarova has played a lot of tennis over the last two weeks and pulled out of the doubles in Birmingham due to a leg injury but she is promising to be at her best against Kvitova, who holds a commanding 9-0 career advantage in their head to head.
Kvitova, whose return to the game is gaining momentum, said: "I went to physio room and I saw her (Safarova) there. And I just started to laugh and she was like, what's happening? And I said, you think we are not playing many times together, like even on the grass? She said, yeah, last time here in Birmingham. You know, it's so weird. I mean we practice a lot together. We know each other well from the Fed Cup and she is playing well on the grass.”
Kvitova earned her semi-final victory with 6-4 7-6(5) win over Kristina Mladenovic, of France, and Safarova paid tribute to her friend: "It is amazing how she's coming back, and after what happened, how quickly she was able to return to play competition. And she's been playing great on grass, and obviously we've had a lot of matches against each other, and I'm still waiting for a victory.
The Aegon Trophy at Ilkley was badly hit by rain and it left big serving Australia Sam Groth frustrated after he took the first set in a tie-break against American Bjorn Fratangelo, a former French Open boys champion. The players were tied at 2-2 when persistent rain forced them off court.