AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 10
Similar to her gruelling Mount Kilimanjaro climb, the Australian Open for Garbine Muguruza has been about putting one foot in front of the other.
The unseeded Spaniard is now just two matches from the summit after seeing off Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5 6-3 to set up a Melbourne Park semi-final meeting with world No.3 Simona Halep.
At 56 minutes, Muguruza's tense first set took longer to complete than the Romanian's entire match, with Halep thumping Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 to earn the tag of hot favourite for their Thursday afternoon showdown.
Muguruza reached the top ranking in September 2017, the same year she won Wimbledon to go with her 2016 French Open title, but her career has stalled, with her ranking down to 32.
Until Wednesday, she hadn't made a grand slam final four since 2018 at Roland Garros.
And her tournament almost ended early in the first week, forced to battle through three-set matches in both the first and second rounds.
But Muguruza felt like she'd been making steady progress since then.
"It definitely has been from low to high, not starting at my best, then each day recovering," said the 26-year-old, who has reunited with coach Conchita Martinez.
"I took every day at a time - each day I was gaining a better feeling instead of getting frustrated thinking in the future.
"I was very happy with the evolution of how I started."
Muguruza changed up her off-season, spending it scaling Africa's highest peak.
She described the five-day expedition as a "really challenging you physically and mentally".
Muguruza was unsure if she was reaping the rewards of the experience or her success was just the pay off after her years of hard work.
She said she never lost faith that she could climb to the top again.
"I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don't go your way," she said.
"You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.
"I'm very excited to be playing again and we'll have to see if it's more."