Garbiñe Muguruza strengthened her qualifying chances for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara on Sunday after coming back from a set and a break down to win the last 10 games to defeat Ons Jabeur, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the final of the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic.
The title is the Spaniard's second of the season, ninth overall, and boosted the 27-year-old to No.6 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals and moved her up three spots to No.6 in the rankings. This marks the second time in Muguruza's career that she has captured more than one title in a single season, having also won two in 2017.
Muguruza spoke to WTA Insider after her title run to reflect on 'a weird' week in Chicago, why she never takes a trophy for granted, and looks ahead to next week's last WTA 1000 event of the season at the BNP Paribas Open.
WTA Insider: This was a tricky week for you in Chicago. Two withdrawals meant you went into the final having played two matches. What was the key to managing that?
Muguruza: Obviously it was a weird situation. It was great because I felt more fresh obviously, because I had less matches. But the fact that you didn't play a lot and you're in a final and you're facing Ons, who's playing amazing and had such a good run here as well, I was like, OK, I have to bring everything in because I didn't play yesterday.
So it's a weird feeling but I'm happy that we managed it well mentally also, not being too stressed about it. I'm happy that I won this final.
WTA Insider: Down a set and a break, it seemed like your fighting spirit really kicked in. In the one match you did play before the final, against Mai Hontama, it seemed you really had to fight through a lot of those games.
Muguruza: The match against Hontama was great because she gave me rhythm and I had to fight and dig in. I don't think the score shows how difficult that match was.
Playing Ons, we played recently at Wimbledon. It was a very good match, didn't go my way, but I knew that today I had to bring better and mentally be better. Even though I lost that first set I stood strong and found a way to navigate through the struggle and force the decider. I think my energy was much better and I wanted it so much and I think that showed up a lot in the third set.
WTA Insider: This is your second title of the year and just the second time in your career you've won two titles in a season. You're back in the Top 10 and eyeing qualification for a fourth WTA Finals. How do you view your 2021 season?
Muguruza: I'm very happy so far. Of course, I would have liked to do better results at the Grand Slams but so far I feel like I've played good matches, a good level at any part of the year.
You know, making finals is so hard. I've been around for quite some time now and I know that winning titles is something very difficult. To have the opportunity to win four and I won two, is already a great sign because that's something that you can touch. You can prove hey, we're doing a great job. Here's a trophy, we're doing good.
WTA Insider: You're a former World No.1 and two-time major champion. This is a WTA 500 event and you looked so elated on match point. It looked like this meant just as much to you as winning any other big title.
Muguruza: People might think that this is a smaller event, but everything counts. Every win. There's so much behind the scenes that people don't see, just the amount of work you put in to hold a trophy no matter what trophy it is. Of course the bigger the better. But to hold the trophy, there are so many girls playing for it that week. To feel like I got it, this week I'm the better player, it's a special feeling. It doesn't matter what tournament it is. For me, it feels so great and it's such a reward.
WTA Insider: Looking ahead to Indian Wells, it's one of the most popular tournaments on tour but it's also a tricky one because of the very unique conditions in the California desert. What's the key for you there?
Muguruza: Adaptation. It's a little different. I feel like I'm coming with good matches. I think the competition is there. I'm just going to have to quickly adapt to the little things. The ball flies, the temperature should be warmer there.
I felt good there, I've made a couple of quarterfinals. All these big tournaments it's just starting slowly and going through the first rounds is always difficult and getting into the deepest rounds is always the challenge when the tournament is long and the draw is big.
WTA Insider: It's rare for a veteran player to experience something new on tour. How would you rate your week in Chicago?
Muguruza: It's not the first time I was in Chicago, I came here for holidays before. I got to know the city. We rented some bikes and we went along the river, downtown, tourist places. It's a very cultural city, very different from other American cities I've been to.
Just the fact that they put together this event, I know it was a lot of effort. I see the people doing their best. It's great of them to give us this opportunity. Hopefully, they can continue this tournament because I think it's going to grow.
One thing I noticed is that there are fans here. There are tennis fans here and they were so excited to watch us play. I was very impressed.
WTA Insider: Speaking of fans, you were so eloquent earlier this week when you spoke of the extra motivation to qualify for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. What do you think it will be like, the combination of having this showcase of the best of women's tennis with the energy and vibe in Mexico?
Muguruza: Before COVID and all of this, I've always loved a crowd. They gave me the reason I was playing here and performing. But after COVID, even more. I really now appreciate when I go out there and there are people there cheering and enjoying and screaming, whatever they are doing, it's such a good feeling to be able to play in front of people and put on a show.
I know it's going to be very nice over there because Latin people are fire. I think the girls are going to enjoy it.