Garbiñe Muguruza and Ons Jabeur will play for the title on Sunday at the Chicago Fall Classic, with both women aiming to not only double up their 2021 title tally but also boost their chances to qualify for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. Three singles players have already qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals, with No.1 Ashleigh Barty, No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, and No.5 Barbora Krejcikova sealing their spots after the US Open.
Muguruza and Jabeur came into Chicago sitting at No.8 and No.9 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals. The Top Eight players on the Porsche Race Leaderboard at the end of the regular season will automatically qualify for the WTA Finals, which will be hosted in Mexico for the first time in November.
"I'm very excited that they're doing the Finals in Mexico and they're giving an opportunity to Latin America to host such a big event," Venezuela-born Muguruza said. "I'm all in for it. I hope that develops more interest in tennis over there."
Muguruza is looking to qualify for her first WTA Finals since 2017, having played from 2015-2017 when the tournament was held in Singapore. In the midst of a strong season that has boosted her back in the Top 10 of the rankings, the former No.1 has enjoyed the change in the tour's fall calendar to include a prolonged North American hardcourt swing after the US Open.
"It definitely changes the mindset because I was very used to having the Asian swing. It's classic," Muguruza said. "Personally, I love this change. I stayed in the US and I was just practicing. It was a continuation. Excited to be here in Chicago. Then we have one of our favorite tournaments, I feel like so many players love Indian Wells. It's a great tournament to have at the end of the season and we all feel like we all want to go to the beach a little bit."
Like Muguruza, Jabeur opted to stay in the U.S. after the US Open to train for the final stretch of the season. The 27-year-old Tunisian is in the midst of a career-best season that has seen her check off a long list of milestones for Arab tennis, becoming the first Arab woman to win a WTA title (Birmingham), make a Wimbledon quarterfinal, and crack the Top 20.
But Jabeur refuses to rest on her laurels. There are two more big milestones within her grasp: becoming the first Arab woman to qualify for the WTA Finals and finish the season in the Top 10.
"The main goal is to qualify for Guadalajara," Jabeur said. "It's a dream coming true. It's something big. Knowing that I can be the first Arab to qualify, it's unbelievable.
"It's more stress on me but I really made my peace with it. I'm going to do my best. If I qualify, great. If I don't, maybe it's a great message for me to rest my body and be ready for the next season."
When it comes to qualifying for the WTA Finals, the final month of the season can be fraught and every match matters, as players battle to pick up points on the Porsche Race Leaderboard. The field for four of the last five editions of the WTA Finals have been decided in the final week of the regular season.
"It's already exciting that there's going to be a Masters there whether I'm playing or not, but I want to be there," Muguruza said. "It gives me extra motivation to do everything I can in these last few tournaments and yeah, let's see."
"In my experiences and every time I played there the crowd is so invested, in any sport. They're so happy there's an event in their country and you can feel the support. It's full of people and they're really cheering for you and that's something that I've personally seen at other tournaments that doesn't happen, and they're as big as the Masters.
"I know that Mexico and Latin countries will not disappoint in that aspect. They're going to be, like, fire there."
For Jabeur, qualifying for her first WTA Finals would be further vindication of the consistent work she has put in over the last three seasons to earn her spot amongst the WTA elite. Always known for her flair and shot-making, Jabeur discipline and commitment have elevated her game to be an all-surface threat.
Prior to the 2021 season, Jabeur had notched four Top 10 wins in her career. Her win over Elina Svitolina in the Chicago quarterfinals was her fifth of the season.
"I knew I had the game to win against any player," Jabeur said. "The consistency and the ability to play in that level against those amazing players is never easy. The matches, the experience helps me a lot.
"I see myself as one of the Top 10 players. I'm trying to reach this. I hope I can prove myself. I know I have a lot of things to work on. I see myself as a Top 10 player, but maybe 9 or 8. I feel like I have so much more to do and to work on to be in the Top 5, which is good news for me and a lot of motivation and challenges to be there."