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Garbiñe Muguruza ends renaissance season with maiden WTA Finals triumph over on-fire Anett Kontaveit
The former world No. 1 is projected to return to the Top 3 in the WTA rankings for the first time since 2018 after winning eight straight sets in Guadalajara.
Published Nov 18, 2021
WATCH: Muguruza lost just four points in the final four games to score her biggest title since Wimbledon 2017.
In an eleventh-hour twist, Garbiñe Muguruza ends 2021 exactly as—if not better than—she began it, earning a second win in four days over No. 8 seed Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 7-5, to win her first WTA Finals title in Guadalajara.
"Overall I think it's the best year for me," she said after the match. "I might not have won a Grand Slam, but I deeply feel like I've been happier and more stable, less dramatic, and in general very happy about it."
Semifinalist in her 2015 debut, the two-time major champion secured her fourth career WTA Finals berth largely off the strength of her phenomenal first two months of the season, during which she won her first title in nearly two years at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and finished runner-up at two other tournaments in Australia and Qatar. A late surge at the inaugural WTA 500 event in Chicago all but assured her spot in the weeks following the US Open.
From losing her first match of the week to fellow former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and falling behind a set to rival Barbora Krejcikova, Muguruza came alive to roll through her final eight sets of the tournament, snapping Kontaveit’s 12-match winning streak to finish second in round robin play and repeating the feat against the otherwise on-fire Estonian in 98 minutes.
"I felt everything. I was stressed at the beginning because I wanted to do so well. I had a tough group. I didn't start well. But I was like, 'Okay, calm down, you wanted to be here, this is your dream, you are here, you still have a chance, so be quiet for a little bit, stop complaining, just keep fighting, hold there, hold to your little chances you might have.'
"Me and Conchi, we were speaking. We were just seeing all the good and positive things: 'I know we lost, but we're here. You have a chance. We're not leaving from Guadalajara without just giving it all.' Look where I am now with that mentality, keeping positive. I made it."
As coach Conchita Martinez watched from the stands, Muguruza enjoyed exponential improvements with each match, defeating both Kontaveit and countrywoman Paula Badosa without dropping serve en route to the final. Her streak of 26 straight service holds came to an end with an early exchange of breaks to start Wednesday’s championship match, but the Spaniard was undaunted and quickly recovered the initiative and broke twice more to sweep the opening set.
While Muguruza built her Race Ranking total on the early hard-court swing, Kontaveit proved a late bloomer in 2021, winning four titles from just before the US Open to the final week of the regular season, pulling off a required Moscow-Cluj Napoca double to unseat presumptive qualifier Ons Jabeur to earn an improbable WTA Finals debut.
The 25-year-old blitzed through her opening round robin matches against Krejcikova and Pliskova, and recovered from the Muguruza defeat to win a three-set semifinal thriller against No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari to book a rematch. From break point down in the sixth game of the second, Kontaveit was on the verge of forcing a deciding set when she broke for a 5-3 lead.
Muguruza would lost just three more points from there, reeling off the final four games to win her biggest title since she won Wimbledon in 2017, falling to the court in the wake of an emotional triumph.
"The other day I was speaking with my manager, Oliver. He was like, 'You know what, for the first time, Garbiñe, you're really using the crowd, really getting that energy and using it on the court. You should do that more often.'
"I think a big lesson to me is to hear the people, the crowd, whether they scream 'Vamos' or 'C'mon.' I'm so concentrated, I just block everything. I should get the energy from the environment."
Playing in front of a Spanish-speaking crowd, Muguruza has enjoyed Guadalajara’s support throughout the week, and as a two-time champion in the Mexican city of Monterrey, improved to 14-2 in the Latin American nation as she captured her 10th career WTA title.
The win is also projected to propel Muguruza back up to world No. 3 in the WTA rankings, her highest position since the summer of 2018. With nearly half her current ranking total up set to expire early next season—including a leftover 2020 runner-up finish at the Australian Open—a strong week in Guadalajara not only eases potential ranking pressure but may allow her to pick up right where she’s leaving off in 2022.