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Garbine Muguruza Wins Her First Match In WTA Tennis Year End Finals In Singapore

Garbine Muguruza of Spain hits souvenir balls to the crowd after winning her singles round robin match against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals 2017 held at the Indoor Stadium in Singapore, 22 October 2017. EPA-EFE/WALLACE WOON



Muguruza’s Hunt for No. 1


By Francisco Resendiz


The Singapore stage sets a theatrical climax to the 2017 season.


Tennis players (L-R) Caroline Garcia of France, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, Simona Halep of Romania, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, Venus Williams of the USA, and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia pose for photographers with the Billie Jean King Trophy following the draw ceremony of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals 2017 tennis tournament at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, 20 October 2017. The WTA Finals will take place from 22 to 29 October 2017. EPA-EFE/WALLACE WOON

Seven of the eight women entered in this week’s WTA Finals have a shot to finish as year-end No. 1.


Second-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza was in no mood for drama today.


In a clash of Grand Slam champions, Wimbledon winner Muguruza subdued Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 6-4, winning her White Group opener in the round-robin event.


“She was playing very good,” Muguruza said afterward. “At the end of the match, she was using her opportunity. I managed to keep composed and turn it around.


“I think I was fighting very well. My shots were there in the important moments. With Jelena, she’s so young and confident, I knew it was going to be difficult.”


Holding down the top spot has been a demanding proposition since Serena Williams stepped of the pro circuit giving birth to her first child last month.


Five different women—including Muguruza—have held the world No. 1 ranking this year but withstanding the pressures of the top spot have proven problematic.


“It’s way different than before,” Muguruza said. “I feel like, you know, every week, depends who is playing well, can be in the top. You know, it gives us a lot of options and variety. You know, just more, like, dramatic for the fans and for us too to see that every week everything can change.”


The 24-year-old Muguruza brings considerable strength to this week’s race for No. 1.


Unlike Karolina Pliskova, whom Muguruza succeeded at the top of the rankings, and Simona Halep, who displaced Muguruza at No. 1, the second-ranked Spaniard has already mastered major titles.


Slashing her flat strikes, Muguruza’s baseline aggression plays well on all surfaces. Her last three titles—the 2016 French Open, Wimbledon and Cincinnati—have come on three different surfaces.


Then there’s her skill standing up to the sport’s biggest hitters. Muguruza is the only active woman to beat both Serena Williams and Venus Williams in Grand Slam finals.


“I think I’m a more experienced player,” Muguruza said. “I played important matches in my career. This is not the first WTA Finals that I play. Everything counts. You know, I feel more a complete player, if I look back three, four years ago. Even one year ago I feel already much more mature. I know it’s not the perfect word, but more experienced.”


The question is: Will that experience help the sometime skittish Spaniard cope with the pressure and secure the season-ending top spot?


For all her great gifts, Muguruza can still look tight under pressure, including closing today’s victory, her flat strikes offer little margin for error when she’s off her game and when things go wrong she can implode emotionally as she has in past blow-ups directed at coach Sam Sumyk during changeovers.


Hall of Famer Martina Hingis famously summed up the pressures of sustaining the world No. 1 ranking succinctly.


“It’s always easier being the hunter than the hunted,” Hingis said.


For Muguruza, the hunt continues.


“It is important, I’m not going to lie, of course, but I know I have to play well,” Muguruza said of seizing the year-end No. 1 ranking. “I know there are so many girls, players, that have the chance. I’m happy that I got it in the past, and now I’m not that, you know, nervous or obsessed. I think it’s more different. So I’m going to fight for that.”

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