MONTERREY, Mexico – Former French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza is ready to return to clay, the surface on which she grew up and eventually became a star. But first, she had some unfinished business on hardcourts, emerging from the concrete jungle with her first title of 2018 at the Abierto GNP Seguros.
“I’m happy to be finished with the hardcourt season for now and winning a title here in Monterrey was a great way to finish it,” she said after a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Timea Babos.
“Now I’m excited to go back on clay courts because it’s my home surface. I’m looking forward to playing Fed Cup and starting fresh on a different surface.”
A strong surge in the Middle East – where she finished runner-up at the Qatar Total Open – led to more mixed results during the Sunshine Swing, falling to eventual champion Sloane Stephens at the Miami Open.
“After a couple of tournaments that didn’t really go my way, I’m relieved to get a win here in the last week.”
In Monterrey, she dropped just one set en route to her sixth career WTA title, improving to 5-0 against Babos, who pushed the former World No.1 to the brink in front of an electric crowd at the Estadio GNP Seguros.
“I was excited, but nervous to play here because I don’t want to disappoint the people who came to see me play. I was so happy to be here in Mexico because there aren’t a lot of tournaments in Latin America, and when I found out I was coming here, I was excited.
“Winning the trophy makes it even more special.”
Muguruza met the win with enthusiastic relief, having rallied from a set and a break down to the Hungarian after two hours and 20 minutes on court.
“What was going through my mind was how it was such a hard match,” she said of her exuberant celebration. “I had been trying to fight like crazy. I was leading, in front of what felt like my home crowd, being in Latin America. I really wanted to win and ended up winning after such a long match. It was very emotional.”
Sharing in those emotions were the members of her team, led by coach Sam Sumyk and physio Alicia Cebrián. Muguruza, who recently parted ways with 1994 Wimbledon winner Conchita Martinez, gave full credit to her support system after Sunday’s final.
“I’m very happy with my team. I think we’re doing a good job, and the results were going to come, sooner or later. This victory is as much theirs as mine, because they’ve been with through the tough moments, and it feels good to finally win a tournament after a while.”
Up next for the Spaniard is a World Group II Play-Off tie, where she and her compatriots will host Paraguay in Mucia. For the former World No.1, it’s an ideal schedule, one that gives her the opportunity to return home and prepare for her favorite time of year.
“I’m definitely going to rest because I’ve been on the road a very long time. I’m going to go back home to rest and start again little by little, but I’m also going to enjoy this victory because you don’t win a tournament every weekend. I just want to be able to celebrate a little.”
Much as she might want to relax, Muguruza appears almost incapable of resting on her laurels. One could argue there is little left to prove after winning two major titles – beating Serena Williams in one final and Venus Williams in another – and becoming World No.1. That argument falls apart in the face of the 24-year-old’s obvious intensity, a quality that comes through loud and clear - even on the phone from a couch in Monterrey, Mexico.
“Winning big things doesn’t take pressure out of you. It’s great to have them, but honestly, I just don’t really care too much about what people think. I’m happy with my career. I want to keep adding titles to my home and play good every single week, but that’s it.
“I’m not thinking a lot about the past. I’m very motivated to keep up this level, to fight for No.1, for trophies, and having a top ranking. I’ll make my way, and that’s it.”