SINGAPORE -- World No.2 and Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza started her campaign to win her first year-ending championship with a decisive opening victory, dispatching No.7 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-3, 6-4, at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Sunday.
"She’s a very aggressive player," Muguruza said of Ostapenko in her press conference. "Ostapenko had an incredible run this year, and she has the confidence, that’s what makes her even more dangerous. I knew going into the match that she could play unbelievable, so I kind of went in prepared."
As it happened: Muguruza slips by Ostapenko in White Group
In a hard-hitting affair, solid returning by both players was the order of the day, but Muguruza held onto early leads in both sets to advance. Muguruza jumps to a 1-0 record in the White Group along with No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova, who dismissed No.5 seed Venus Williams earlier.
The Spaniard claimed the only round-robin match between two of this year's Grand Slam champions. Both of their previous matches this season went three sets, but Muguruza defeated the reigning French Open titlist here in one hour and 25 minutes, avenging her loss to Ostapenko at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan earlier this month.
Ostapenko hit some breathtaking shots, and had 21 winners in the match. The 20-year-old had 25 unforced errors, though, and converted only three of her eight break points. The steadier Muguruza was more effective at those opportunities, breaking five times in seven chances.
"I’ve played [Ostapenko] a bunch of times already and she can serve very good sometimes, like everybody, and sometimes you can make some double faults," Muguruza continued. "She’s aggressive, she takes some risks, and I tried to jump on every occasion I have."
After an exchange of breaks early in the set, Muguruza seemed to claim a decisive break for 3-1 after Ostapenko double faulted twice in a row to cede the game. The Latvian struggled to keep her second serve from being attacked, and won only one of nine second serve points in the opening set.
But Ostapenko was able to pull the set back on serve to 4-3, after a long game which saw Muguruza reach game point from triple break point down. The Spaniard finally succumbed on the fourth break point against her when she slapped a forehand unforced error into the net.
However, Muguruza won the final two games of the set on the trot, breaking Ostapenko one more time for a 5-3 lead, and then ramping up the effectiveness on her forehand to hold for a one-set lead. The No.2 seed had a tidy first set, with only five unforced errors.
The second set followed a similar pattern to the first, as Ostapenko's risky play did not gel in the early going, and Muguruza's more consistent heavy hitting with greater margin allowed her to grab an early lead.
Forehand errors by Ostapenko down break point in both of her first two service games of the set led Muguruza to a 4-1, double-break lead, which felt unassailable. But, again, the Latvian held firm as the set approached finality, using her brutal forehand to break Muguruza when the Spaniard served for the match at 5-2.
“I wanted to win so badly, and she was just not giving me anything," Muguruza said, when asked by the media if she was nervous down the stretch. "She was playing incredible shots when she was down, and I thought it’s normal that she’s playing incredible. I waited for my moment, where I serve and try to take control, and it went well.”
Despite a dipping first serve percentage, Muguruza, who was ranked World No.1 earlier this year, held her nerve for just long enough. Serving at 5-4, Muguruza reached double match point after an Ostapenko backhand went meekly into the net.
Two forehand unforced errors brought the game back to deuce, but a backhand unforced error into the net by Ostapenko, punctuated by a squeal of frustration, gave Muguruza a third chance. An exceptional forehand down the line was too much for the Latvian to handle, and Muguruza clinched victory.