CINCINNATI, Ohio - Garbiñe Muguruza came back from the brink at the Western & Southern Open for a remarkable week in which she won her second title of the season. En route to her fifth career title, the 23-year-old saved three match points to defeat Madison Keys in the round of 16, and then got the better of Svetlana Kuznetsova, World No.1 Karolina Pliskova and World No.2 Simona Halep to win the title.
Muguruza's summer hardcourt season has quickly quieted any questions as to whether the Spaniard was prime for a post-Slam slump, after winning her second major at Wimbledon last month. Since capturing the London title, Muguruza has compiled a 9-2 record, making the semifinals of the Bank of the West Classic, quarterfinals at the Rogers Cup, and now a triumphant run in Cincinnati.
Is Muguruza the favorite heading into the US Open? Possibly. But first she'll have to banish her Big Apple hex.
WTA Insider sat down with Muguruza after her Cincinnati win to discuss her last six weeks, her improved consistency over the season, and how she plans to get into a New York state of mind.
Listen to the full interview on the WTA Insider Podcast:
WTA Insider: No.1 on the Porsche Race to Singapore, No.3 in the rankings, second title of the season, and reigning Wimbledon champion. Not a bad month and a half for you!
Muguruza: No, for sure not! Especially this week, that I managed to survive after these tough matches and play a great match in the final, which is not easy. I'm happy with my American swing so far.
WTA Insider: It seems like you have a great ability to save your best for the end.
Muguruza: Well, I'm not trying to do that. For sure I feel good when I go out there when I have tough matches and big crowds. Since I was a little girl, I feel good when I have these situations. I feel more motivated.
WTA Insider: How important was it for you to get back on court so quickly after Wimbledon?
Muguruza: I think it was important. I was actually looking forward to playing, to keep the vibe. I felt prepared. I didn't want to miss anything.
WTA Insider: Earlier this week you said "Pressure is a pain." How different are you with how you deal with pressure now compared to maybe three years ago?
Muguruza: I think I have a different perspective. Now I work hard and I don't take for granted that it's going to work. So I try not to get that frustrated. Before I was maybe working hard and expecting to have good matches, and they weren't coming. So this time I feel more calm and I think experience helps me go through these tough situations.
WTA Insider: But how do you stop yourself from expecting results when you know that you're putting in the hard work and doing everything right?
Muguruza: It's hard because everyone wants it right now. No one is patient. Everyone wants to win as fast as they can. But I know that if it doesn't happen today, it will happen tomorrow. If I keep working hard and knowing what I have to do, sooner or later it's going to come. That's the tricky part. Waiting for your moment, because it's going to come.
WTA Insider: Much has been made about your big titles this year, but you've also been very consistent. What has made a difference?
Muguruza: I think my medium level is higher than it was before. I like that I give myself chances to play the matches that I want. I always like the semifinals and finals -- everyone loves those rounds -- but you have to get there. I'm happy that I'm going through these first rounds, difficult opponents, and managing to get to the last days of the tournament and then I have chances to win the tournament. Or at least I feel I can do it.
WTA Insider: Is there a moment at a tournament, maybe the quarterfinals or semifinals, where you flip a switch and go from searching for your form to really believing you can win the title?
Muguruza: Honestly, I don't know. I take every match as a final. There's a lot of tournaments you pass the first rounds and almost you get to the final but you don't win. Those first matches are tough. You're playing opponents that maybe you know less. They're difficult as well. This is the most tricky part most times.
WTA Insider: Nick Kyrgios said after he beat Rafael Nadal this week that he doesn't have a problem getting excited for those matches, but playing a qualifier on an outer court at a low-level tournament can be tough. Many top players talk about how tricky those early rounds are.
Muguruza: For sure, there is not final or trophy if you don't dig in those first rounds. Those first rounds are difficult because you're nervous, you have a lot of pressure, maybe you're playing people you don't know and everyone is expecting you to win. So you have to go through these painful situations, as I said before, but for me, I'm happy that I'm improving that and giving myself a chance to be in those last rounds.
WTA Insider: If I remember correctly, the New York vibe isn't exactly your speed. What are you going to try to do to fix that this year?
Muguruza: Honestly, I think I'm going to stop trying to fix it. I'm happy to be in New York. It's a very special place. It takes a lot of energy of course, it's noisy, and it's 24/7, but I'm going to stop thinking about that. I'm just going to go out there and be calm and play as freely as I can. Forget that the last few years it didn't go my way. Maybe this year it is my year. Who knows?
WTA Insider: Is part of enjoying New York learning to just accept that it is what it is and you just have to go with the flow?
Muguruza: Yeah, for sure. I'm going to stop trying to think about it. I feel like I'm going to try and not have a lot of expectations with New York. Every time I have a little bit, it holds me a little bit back. I'm just going to go out there from zero. Forget about what happened previous years. It's a new tournament. I'm just going to see what's going to happen this year and that's all.
WTA Insider: Lastly, obviously the attacks in Barcelona [last] week have been on everyone's mind. You played with a black ribbon on your visor. Do you have a message to send back home?
Muguruza: I just wanted to show that I had them in my mind. There's not a lot of things I can do from here. That's at least something I can do. For me it's terrible because I've been to Las Ramblas so many times and it really shocked me because it's my city. It's just really sad.