Fixture: Victoria Azarenka vs Garbine Muguruza
Date: 19 September 2020
Tournament: Italian Open 2020
Venue: Rome, Italy
Category: WTA Premier 5
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €1,771,082
Match timing: Not before 2 pm CEST, 5.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel / ESPN
Victoria Azarenka vs Garbine Muguruza preview
Anyone following the WTA Tour in recent weeks would be familiar with the resurgence of Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian almost retired earlier this year, but ended up winning the Western & Southern Open last month before finishing as the runner-up at the US Open.
Azarenka has won 14 of her last 15 matches now. The stunning run includes a win over Serena Williams last week and a double-bagel demolition of Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.
Spain's Garbine Muguruza, meanwhile, was having her own resurgence in the early part of the season. She reached the Australian Open final, going down to Kenin in three sets, but after the resumption of the tour she lost in the second round of the US Open.
Muguruza has registered a couple of quality wins in Rome this week, getting past Coco Gauff and Johanna Konta in successive matches to make the last eight.
Victoria Azarenka vs Garbine Muguruza head-to-head
Victoria Azarenka leads the head-to-head against Garbine Muguruza by a margin of 2-1, but interestingly only one of those three matches was completed.
Their only full match came at the Miami Masters in 2016, which Azarenka won in two tie-breakers. The Belarusian retired when Muguruza was leading by a set and a break in Monterrey last year, and the tables were reversed when Muguruza retired while Azarenka was leading by a set and a break at Rome a few weeks later.
Victoria Azarenka vs Garbine Muguruza prediction
Victoria Azarenka has spoken a lot about her transformation in recent weeks, saying that she does not base her self-worth on her results anymore. She claims she is enjoying being on the court much more than in the first, more successful, part of her career.
Azarenka is playing great tennis, she's not scared of losing anymore, and she has a life outside of tennis - and that can be a pretty deadly combination. Her wins over Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin show that the jet lag and the number of matches in recent weeks haven't affected her just yet.
Azarenka is also winning more fans by displaying her compassionate side on the court. On Friday her opponent Daria Kasatkina retired at 6-6 in the first set due to an ankle injury, and the Belarusian responded by going over to her side and helping her with ice and a few warm words of comfort.
Azarenka's opponent on Saturday, Garbine Muguruza, is a former French Open champion and knows how to play on clay. Muguruza hasn't always had things her way against a slew of quality opponents this week, but she has held firm when it has mattered.
Muguruza can generate her own pace much more easily on the slow clay of Rome as compared to Azarenka. But confidence brings its own momentum, which might just take Azarenka into Sunday's semifinals.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three sets.