MELBOURNE - Garbine Muguruza's participation at the Australian Open had been in doubt due to illness but Monday's demolition of Kiki Bertens to reach the quarter-finals proved she is not only nearing full health but could also be a genuine title contender.
The 26-year-old smashed ninth-seed Bertens 6-3 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena in a little over an hour to advance to her first quarter-final at Melbourne Park since 2017.
The victory followed a similar 6-1 6-2 thrashing of fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the third round and the unseeded Muguruza said she was beginning to feel more comfortable.
"Starting the Grand Slam not feeling great it's not a good feeling," she said of the viral illness that forced her out of a warmup tournament in Hobart.
"(I'm) just adapting to every single day, how my body was, how my matches were.
"I feel like my body is getting healthier (and) I'm happy of how I'm dealing with this."
Former French Open and Wimbledon champion Muguruza entered the tournament unseeded and was viewed as a dangerous floater.
Her lack of match play caught up with her, however, when she lost the opening set of her first-round clash with Shelby Rogers without winning a game, only to battle back for a 0-6 6-1 6-0 victory.
She was also taken to three sets by Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round but since then has hit top gear, her win on Monday showing how dangerous she could be coming through the bottom half of the draw.
The Spaniard broke Bertens five times in the match and proved she could still overpower the bigger hitters of the women's game from the baseline.
"She's a very solid player, has a big serve. She's physically very strong," Muguruza said.
"I was expecting that it's going to be a tough match because every time we played, it has been like this. I was ready for it (and) I played my game, aggressive game.
"Right away I felt it was working."
Muguruza, who faces either Angelique Kerber or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarters, acknowledged that completing the third leg of a career Grand Slam was still in the back of her mind.
"I feel like every player has this desire. If you can achieve it, for sure, to be able to win the whole four, it's incredible," she said.
"I don't think about it all the time, but I do feel like, okay, I don't have 20 more Australian Opens to play.
"Every time I come here, I'm ... thinking 'okay, how far can I go this year?'"
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman/Peter Rutherford)
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.