GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- No.5 seed Garbiñe Muguruza kept her hopes alive of advancing out of the group stage Friday night with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No.2 seed Barbora Krejcikova at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. The victory moves Muguruza to 1-1 in the Teotihuacán group, while Krejcikova drops to 0-2.
Muguruza and Krejcikova, who both lost their opening matches, came into the duel under pressure. It was a must-win scenario for Muguruza, who would have been eliminated from contention with a loss. But with her three-set win, both she and Krejcikova, along with No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova, have a chance to reach the semifinals based on Sunday's final round-robin matches.
Nothing but ❤️ for the Spaniard! @GarbiMuguruza | #AKRONWTAFinals pic.twitter.com/tCiyOKYG7Z— wta (@WTA) November 13, 2021
Earlier in the day, Estonia's Anett Kontaveit improved to 2-0 in group play and advanced to the semifinals with a win over Pliskova. On Sunday, Muguruza will face Kontaveit and Krejcikova takes on Pliskova.
Tale of the Match: In their fourth meeting of the season, Muguruza snapped a two-match losing streak against Krejcikova, who won in Cincinnati and the US Open. Muguruza won their first and most consequential meeting in the Dubai final en route to her biggest title since 2017.
After struggling with her range in the first four games, Krejcikova finally locked in and ran away with the opening set 6-2 after 36 minutes. She converted 65% of her first serves, along with seven winners and 15 unforced errors. Importantly, Krejcikova went 3-for-3 on break points. Muguruza in contrast hit only two winners to 18 unforced errors, breaking Krejcikova once.
Bullet of a backhand ☄️@GarbiMuguruza | #AKRONWTAFinals pic.twitter.com/lzzWnwGhov— wta (@WTA) November 13, 2021
"I think I started the first set not playing great," Muguruza said. "In the second set the crowd really helped me. I said before and I really mean it, because they cheer me up. I realized that, hey, I'm not leaving this court without changing things around at least or give Barbora the biggest fight."
Muguruza quickly turned the tables in the second set, building a 4-1 lead before Krejcikova was able to get back on serve at 3-4.
But the Muguruza refused to let Krejcikova back in the set, breaking her in the next game and serving out the 45 minute set to take it 6-3. After serving at 58% in the first set, Muguruza lifted her level to land 71% of her first serves in the second set, including five aces, winning 76% of the time. She also tightened up her ground game, hitting 10 winners to 12 unforced errors.
Muguruza + winner = happy crowd 🙌#AKRONWTAFinals pic.twitter.com/NQhztaFxp7— wta (@WTA) November 13, 2021
Turning point: After exchanging holds to open the deciding set, Muguruza played a monumental 12-minute return game that saw Krejcikova wipe away five break points before the Spaniard finally converted with a perfectly built point that ended on a forehand winner into the open court.
With the momentum firmly on her side, Muguruza managed her service games and did not face a break point for the remainder of the encounter. Serving for the match at 5-4, 30-all, Muguruza struck her sixth ace of the match to earn match point, which she converted to finish off a 2-hour, 10-minute effort.
Listen to that crowd 🗣️— wta (@WTA) November 13, 2021
🇪🇸 @GarbiMuguruza edges past Krejcikova in a tight three set battle!#AKRONWTAFinals pic.twitter.com/rZWeLSXo9E
Stat of the Match: Muguruza served at 58% in the first set and raised her level to serve at 71% in the second set, winning 75% of her first serve points. She improved on that trend in the decider, serving at 73% and winning 89% of her first serve points. As a result, Muguruza did not face a break point in the final set.
"I felt like in the first set I wasn't doing enough," Muguruza said. "Every time I served she would break me or I would not dominate. I feel like the serve is such a weapon here in the altitude. I had to do something different. I concentrated a lot on making those first serves at least so I could hold my serve, then try to break her. That was definitely a key today."
It was a rare loss for the Czech, who came into the match with a 39-2 record this season when she wins the first set and a 13-2 record in three-set matches.
Krejcikova was pleased with her performance: "I think she served pretty well. I know that she can just raise her level up. I mean, it's really tough when she's serving well, especially in here with the tough conditions. I've been just trying to find a way. I was just a little short at the end.
"But I think I did a really good match, I did a really good performance. I'm actually really happy that every single day I'm improving and I'm getting better. It's a really, really good thing for me. Yeah, just today the match was really close. I was just the one that was unlucky. That's it. That's how I see the match."
Muguruza on how she's tapping into her fighting spirit at the WTA Finals: "I tell myself I'm in Mexico," she said. "I love it here. This is the final push. I'm going to give everything I have left on every single match. No matter if it's ugly the score or whatever. I always have a chance because I've played all of them, I've beaten some, lost to some.
"It's really very open. You never feel like you don't have a chance right now. So that's where I get my fuel. I'm very excited to keep my options alive."