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Garbine Muguruza vs Caroline Garcia WTA Tokyo tennis live stream: Muguruza takes on improving Garcia for WTA Tokyo semifinal spot

Brendan O'Neill 21 Sep 2017
  • World no. 1 Garbine Muguruza takes on Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open
  • Muguruza vs Garcia Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis is live from Tokyo on Friday at 3pm local/7am BST
Garbine Muguruza (Photo by angelicalbite)

Garbine Muguruza bids to make the Toray Pan Pacific Open semifinals for the second time as the world no. 1 faces off with Caroline Garcia in the Tokyo quarterfinals on Friday. 

Muguruza vs Garcia Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis is live from Tokyo on Friday at 3pm local/7am BST. Watch and bet on tennis live at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

New world no. 1 Garbine Muguruza continues her quest to crown her accession to the top spot with a title as she takes on Caroline Garcia for a place in the semifinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Friday.

Muguruza became the fourth woman to be ranked world no. 1 in 2017 – after Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova – after the US Open despite having fallen in the fourth round to an inspired Petra Kvitova, thanks to Pliskova’s defeat in the quarterfinals to CoCo Vandeweghe. Muguruza, who also won the Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati in the run-up to the US Open – her first title on American hard courts – and made semifinals in Brisbane, Rome, Birmingham and Stanford also became the first woman to qualify for the WTA Finals Singapore. 

But her hold on the top spot isn’t particularly secure with a number of women now jostling to end the year as world no. 1 – Pliskova in particular could close the gap in the rankings to less than 100 points by winning the title in Tokyo – and there is no time for Muguruza to rest on her laurels even while her every match comes under closer scrutiny from the media (and every opponent working harder to beat her and claim the scalp of a world no. 1). 

‘Nothing has changed - I think on paper it's different,’ Muguruza said after her opening win in Tokyo. ‘You can feel like you're the top seed, but overall, I'm not thinking, “Oh, I'm No.1, I should win easily.” Every match is going to be tougher now.’

Muguruza made a good start to her reign with a straight-sets win over Monica Puig on Wednesday, 6-4, 6-0 in 74 minutes. Although Puig must have had other and more serious things on her mind, with her homeland of Puerto Rico devastated by hurricanes, she had trounced Muguruza 6-1, 6-1 in their last encounter at the Rio Olympics. That was during the best week of tennis Puig had ever played, however, form which she has struggled to recapture ever since, and despite a hard-fought first set, she never really looked like being able to overcome Muguruza’s relentless baseline shotmaking and solid serving. 

‘When I played her [in Rio], she played very well,’ Muguruza said. ‘That day, it was credit to her. Today, I think I improved a lot. I'm more confident and knew I had to go out there and be very aggressive. I always try to play my game, so maybe the confidence, playing better, and making the right decisions helped me today.  
‘It was a tight match though - especially the first set and even in the second set, all the points were tough. I kind of learned a little bit what worked in the first set. She made a few more mistakes, I made a few more good shots, and it went my way.’

It was a promising start to her reign as world no. 1, but Muguruza will be far from satisfied. A quarterfinalist at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in 2015-16, her best result was a semifinal finish in 2014 and Muguruza will be intent on making it back to the semifinals at least in 2017. 

Standing in Muguruza’s way is Caroline Garcia, the ninth seed, who has made it to the quarterfinals without dropping a set. 

There have been some lows for Caroline Garcia this season, but overall it’s been her most successful year of her career and she hit a career-high ranking of world no. 19 at the end of July, coming into the Toray Pan Pacific Open just one spot off that career high as world no. 20. Now 23, Garcia has been tipped to be at the top of the game for years and never quite delivered on the undeniable potential of her athletic physique (which seems perfectly designed for playing tennis) or her booming groundstrokes. A weak serve, a lack of consistency and a seeming inability to deal with pressure have held her back, but her game is definitely maturing. After titles in Strasbourg and Mallorca in 2016, Garcia started 2017 as world no. 24 but had only semifinals in Monterrey and Strasbourg to show for her first five months of the season – and a well-publicised spat with former doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic, who led her Fed Cup teammates in mocking Garcia on Twitter after a back injury caused her to pull out of a tournament.

Garcia was obviously deeply hurt – but she responded with her best ever run at the French Open, beating Alize Cornet (one of those who had mocked her) on her way to a quarterfinal defeat to Karolina Pliskova. On grass, she made the semifinals of Mallorca and the fourth round of Wimbledon before notching another semifinal in Bastad and making the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto and making the third round of the US Open.

These results don’t necessarily sound that impressive, but they evidence consistency, and that’s the one thing Garcia has always been lacking – and something which could be a springboard to greater things. In Tokyo, where she was 0-2 before this year, Garcia opened with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich before ousting Kurumi Nara 6-1, 6-3 – the kind of straightforward wins over lower-ranked opponents she has rarely been able to make look routine before. 

Muguruza and Garcia have never met, but it could be an intriguing battle. Garcia is 8-26 against top-10 players and has lost all five matches she’s played against top-10 players in 2017, but the French player certainly has the weapons to trade with Muguruza and if she is having a good serving day and playing aggressively, could certainly make the world no. 1’s life extremely difficult. Muguruza will need to find that same blend of patience and attack, the kind of relentless, disciplined point construction she’s displayed to such advantage over the past couple of months, to make it back to the semifinals at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. 

Muguruza vs Garcia is scheduled on Centre Court in Tokyo on Friday at 3pm local/7am BST. Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > Garbine Muguruza vs Caroline Garcia

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Garbine Muguruza vs Caroline Garcia WTA Tokyo tennis live stream: Muguruza takes on improving Garcia for WTA Tokyo semifinal spot

Continuing her inaugural tournament as world no. 1, Garbine Muguruza faces off with the much-improved, dangerous Caroline Garcia in a bid to make her second semifinal at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

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