Australian Open 2020: Garbine Muguruza says life-changing climb of Mount Kilimanjaro helped inspire her to quarter-final victory
Muguruza defeated Russia's Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena to reach her first Australian Open semi-final, where she will take on Romanian Simona Halep, who had blasted past Anett Kontaveit earlier in the day.
Muguruza had to battle through the field the hard way after finding herself unseeded in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014. But the Spanish starlet has produced a string of powerful performances in Melbourne to place herself on the brink of the final as she bids to capture her third Grand Slam title to join the French Open title in 2016 and the Wimbledon title in 2017.Also on rt.com Australian Open 2020: Simona Halep plans shopping trip after quickfire win sends her through to Melbourne semis (VIDEO)
But after her victory over Pavlyuchenkova, Muguruza admitted she was surprised to have fared so well in Australia after revealing she had contracted a viral illness heading into the tournament.
"I came (here) not feeling great. I wasn't really thinking, 'How far will I go?'" she explained.
"I had enough already thinking, 'How will I go practise today?'
"I took (one) day at a time ... Each day I was gaining a better feeling - instead of getting frustrated thinking (about) the future."
Muguruza's journey to the semi-finals marks a return to form for the Spanish player, who hasn't reached the final four of a Grand Slam since the 2018 French Open. Her poor form saw her bounced out of Wimbledon in the very first round, and she took the decision to split with her longtime coach Sam Sumyk soon afterwards.
"I think the toughest moment is when you work hard, work like before, or even harder, and you don't feel like results are coming fast," she said of the career lull.
"So I think that's the tricky part for us. Athletes sometimes can get a little bit desperate, get too impatient about it.
"It's very tough to be for so many years in the top of the game, being that consistent ... Barely (any) players can hold that for many, many years in a row."
And the Venezuelan-born player says her upturn in form may well have been a result of what she described as a "life-changing" experience as she climed Mount Kilimanjaro, and reunited with former mentor and fellow Grand Slam winner Conchita Martinez.
"I'm in a tournament, at this stage, it's not the right moment (to fully explain)," she said.
"I will definitely share my experience. I think it's fun to hear."
Muguruza will take on former world No. 1 Halep in the semi-finals later in the week, and admitted she had a tough test on her hands.
"I think it's a tough match," she said.
"(I'm) excited to play another battle against her."