World #3 Garbine Muguruza faces off against Belgian world #47 Alison Van Uytvanck on Thursday, in a match she will be widely expected to win. Muguruza is the reigning Wimbledon champion, having won her second Grand Slam title at the All England Club last year. Van Uytvanck, while a capable player, has made a habit of losing in the second round of late, being knocked out at that point in her last four tournaments, and she will have her work cut out to challenge last year’s winner.
These two have met just once so far in their careers, and that meeting came back in 2014 at Florianopolis, Brazil. Muguruza prevailed, but she was challenged by the Belgian, being taken the distance before winning 6-2 6-7 6-3. But the Spaniard wasn’t the player she is today back then, and was ranked outside of the top 20 for the entirety of the year. The same, however, could be said for Van Uytvanck, who spent almost the whole year outside the top 100.
Path to the second round
Muguruza was perhaps public enemy number one in her first round match, in which she faced British wildcard Naomi Broady on Centre Court. She managed to rise above the lack of support though, and beat the world #138 relatively comfortably in two sets. Although she was pushed in the second set, the outcome never looked seriously in doubt and the Spaniard ultimately prevailed 6-2 7-5 in just under an hour and a half.
Van Uytvanck arrived in Wimbledon after a fairly extensive grass court season that saw her play in Rosmalen, Mallorca and Eastbourne, winning a match at each of the tournaments before being knocked out. At Wimbledon she faced world #64 Polona Hercog in what looked on paper like a relatively even match. But in reality the Belgian proved a class above in an impressive display and after little over an hour on court Van Uytvanck had won 6-2 6-2.
How do they match up?
Both of these women possess explosive and powerful game styles, which should make for an entertaining match up. Muguruza, at her best, is difficult to beat, with her flat, powerful groundstrokes on both sides allowing her to dictate rallies from the baseline. The nature of her game, however, can result in numerous unforced errors, and as a result she has earned herself the undesirable reputation of being a player easily upset on an off day.
Van Uytvanck is not dissimilar in the way she plays, if a little less polished. The Belgian also relies on aggressive groundstrokes, and is very comfortable coming into the net. Her lateral movement, a problem early in her career, is much improved, and should allow her to combat Muguruza’s aggression. These two women both stand at exactly six feet tall, and with their powerful serving and groundstrokes should put on an entertaining show.
This won’t be an easy match for Muguruza. But if she plays near her best she will win, as her playing style is essentially a more developed version of Van Uytvanck’s. If, however, she becomes a little loose in her groundstrokes, as she is capable of doing, Van Uytvanck will be ready to take advantage. Ultimately, expect the world #3 to have enough to get the job done, but to have been extended to three sets before reaching the third round.