For my fifth post previewing the 2017 WTA season, I’m looking at the prospects of Garbiñe Muguruza and Madison Keys. What Garbiñe Muguruza will have made of her 2016 season, I have absolutely no idea. Obviously winning Roland Garros was the standout moment of her career so far, and the way she dealt with Serena in the final proved her big-match credentials. Ideally, this triumph would have set her up for further success across the remainder of the year but instead the opposite happened and she regularly suffered early round defeats to the likes of Flipkens, Cepelova, Puig, Sevastova, Svitolina and Jankovic. In actual fact, her form leading into Roland Garros hadn’t really been that good and outside of that tournament, she only scored three top 10 wins in the entire season (Bacsinszky, Vinci and Kuznetsova).
One of the main questions hanging over her is about her coaching relationship with Sam Sumyk. Sumyk is undoubtedly a coach with fantastic credentials but many, including Martina Navratilova, have questioned whether his style works for Muguruza. Their on-court coaching exchanges have often been tense and frosty, and often don’t seem to have a positive impact on Muguruza. Many expected the relationship to end during the off-season coaching merry-go-round, but it seems that it’s going to continue into 2017. As a tennis fan, I hope Muguruza can quickly find her feet and rediscover the form that led her to success in 2015 and Roland Garros. She kicks off her season in Brisbane, before heading to the Australian Open.
Madison Keys won’t be in Australia this year. She underwent minor surgery wrist surgery immediately after the Tour Finals and although she’s back in training, she hasn’t had enough time to recover. 2016 was the best year of Keys’ young career, with a title in Birmingham and finals in Rome and Montreal and her first appearance at the Tour Finals, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Her greatest success came when she showed patience and good shot selection, something her recently axed coach Thomas Hogstedt helped hugely with, but she was often guilty of going for broke on every shot, something that’s caused her problems throughout her career.
Once Keys manages to add more consistency to her game and cut out some of the early losses that still managed to blight her in 2016. She’s dismissed Hogstedt, which is a bit disappointing considering how he helped her improve in the few months they were together, and re-hired Lindsay Davenport, who has a similarly gregarious and relaxed personality and previously helped her to the 2015 Australian Open semi-final. Whether this is a good decision remains to be seen, but she’ll be missed in Australia and her return, hopefully by Indian Wells, will be eagerly anticipated.