They say you should never meet your heroes, but Garbine Muguruza doesn’t have a choice.
Growing up during the 1990s and noughties, young Spaniard Muguruza admired the powerful play of Serena Williams. On Thursday, she will experience it first-hand when she faces the third seed in the second round.
Williams’ path to round two has been almost smooth. A 6-0 6-0 demolition of Edina Gallovits-Hall was newsworthy only for the tumble that Williams took late in the first set.
The American took an immediate medical time-out to have her right ankle re-strapped. After that brief pause in proceedings, normal transmission resumed as Williams finished the job she had so impressively begun.
The question is, how much of an impact will this injury have on Williams? A similar ankle injury in Brisbane last year hampered the American in her 2012 Australian Open campaign – she subsequently lost in the fourth round to 56th-ranked Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
No doubt, all eyes will be on Williams’s movement when she takes the court in the second match at Rod Laver Arena. Will Muguruza attempt to run Williams around the court to test her suspect joint?
Such a strategy comes with a word of warning – do so at your own risk. An angry Serena is an uncomfortable prospect. Many more established players have wilted under the deathly Williams glare from across the net.
For those of you unfamiliar with the world No.112, Muguruza is a 19-year-old Spanish right-hander who turned pro in 2011. This is just the second Grand Slam main draw she has contested after making her major debut at the US Open last year. Her first-round win was her first Grand Slam tournament triumph.
And while Williams hasn’t lost to a player outside the top 100 since the first round of Roland Garros last year, Muguruza is capable of tossing a racquet in the works. Victories over Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta in Miami last year are proof that the Spaniard can hold her own when confronted with a higher-ranked opponent.
But the likelihood of an upset on Thursday appears slim. Williams has been in startlingly good touch since that un-Williams like loss at the French Open last year. Based on current form, even if Williams came out on crutches, most people would still tip her to win.
With no word from the Williams camp on Wednesday, it’s impossible to predict the severity of the injury. She did practice, but moved her session indoors away from the eyes of coaches, the public and media. What is known is that Williams will play, no matter what.
“Oh, I'll be out there,” a defiant Williams told reporters. “I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there's no way I'm not going to be competing.
“I'm alive. My heart's beating. I'll be fine.”