Garbiñe Muguruza’s 10th career WTA singles title proved to be a huge one: her first Akron WTA Finals championship.
The No.6 seed from Spain defeated No.8 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 7-5 to capture her third and biggest title of the year Wednesday night in front of a excited crowd in Guadalajara. Muguruza fought back from a break down in the second set, winning the last four games of the match.
Muguruza is the first Spaniard to win the WTA Finals singles title in the event’s history. Former World No.1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was the only other player from Spain to reach the WTA Finals singles championship match, finishing as runner-up to Stefanie Graf in 1993.
Fast facts: Former World No.1 Muguruza is the only player to defeat Kontaveit within the last month — and she did it twice this week. Muguruza ended the Estonian’s 12-match winning streak in the round-robin portion of the competition, and repeated the feat in the singles final. It is the seventh time in WTA Finals history that round-robin foes have had a rematch in the final.
It was a fitting final for the last tour-level match of the season, as Kontaveit and Muguruza rank first and second in hardcourt wins this season, with 39 and 35, respectively. But Muguruza was able to prevail in 1 hour and 38 minutes this time around, improving to 4-2 overall against Kontaveit.
With the victory, Muguruza continues a pattern of dominance in Mexico. Muguruza now boasts a commanding 14-2 win-loss record on Mexican soil throughout her career. On her most recent previous visits to the country, Muguruza won back-to-back titles in Monterrey in 2018 and 2019.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza will rise to World No.3 in the season-ending rankings. That will be Muguruza's best year-end ranking since she finished 2017 at No.2. Kontaveit is projected to hit a new career-high No.7.
The champion's quotes: "Right now I feel extremely happy and relieved because it's a tournament that I've struggled at the beginning, then I managed to play well," Muguruza said in her post-match press conference. "I think I'm staying composed a little bit now because it means really a lot to me to win such a big, big, big tournament, the [WTA Finals] in Latin America, here in Mexico. I think it's just perfect.
"I'm just very happy I proved to myself once again I can be the best, I can be the maestra, like how we say in Spanish. That puts me in a very good position for next year, a good ranking. ... It's just the payoff for such a long year. My team and I worked hard. It pays off. Just shows us that we're doing the right way.
"This trophy, like right now here, these are the best feelings. Not even the ranking. Just to actually touch this and I take it home, it's in the story, it's in my curriculum. It's the way of, like, 'I did it.'"
Match stats: Two relatively close sets went the way of Muguruza due partially to greater effectiveness returning second serves. Kontaveit only won 38 percent of the Spaniard's second-service points, while Muguruza claimed nearly 60 percent of points off of the Estonian's second delivery.
Muguruza and Kontaveit were nearly evenly matched in winners during the clash, with 16 for Muguruza and 15 for Kontaveit. But Muguruza played the cleaner match overall, with 14 fewer unforced errors than Kontaveit.
Key moments: A tense first set saw the pair exchange breaks early before Kontaveit dropped a backhand into the net to give Muguruza a 4-3 lead. Muguruza eased through the opening frame from there, winning the last four games as she sealed the one-set lead with a deft lob winner.
It was Kontaveit, though, who grabbed the early lead in the second set as Muguruza’s miscues, particularly from the forehand side, started to mount. A wide error from that wing ceded a break to Kontaveit, and the Estonian used her powerful play to consolidate and build a 5-3 lead.
However, with Kontaveit serving for the set, Muguruza would pull back level at 5-5 after deploying a forehand winner down the line on break point. Muguruza dominated from there, winning the final four games for the second set in a row. Muguruza broke Kontaveit at love to wrap up the win and take home the year-end crown.