HOBART, Australia - Garbiñe Muguruza won her first WTA title at the Hobart International, all the more impressive given it was just her second week back in action after a lengthy ankle injury lay-off.
After storming through the qualifying draw without losing a set, Muguruza continued the pattern in the main draw - including a 64 63 quarterfinal upset over No.2 seed Kirsten Flipkens. And she was even better in the final, winning seven games in a row to finish off No.7 seed Klara Zakopalova, 64 60.
"I didn't expect to win a lot of matches in the second tournament of the year, but I knew that I'd just worked so hard before," Muguruza said. "When I was at home I was thinking to myself, 'If I go to the tournament I'm going to fight so much,' and that's what I did. I was like a big bull out there."
For the last few years Muguruza has been touted as one to watch on the WTA, pulling off one big feat in particular - at Miami in 2012 she became the equal-fastest player ever to beat a Top 10 player, upsetting Vera Zvonareva in her second WTA main draw match (tying Andrea Leand and Julie Coin).
The Spaniard kept rising in the first half of 2013, reaching her first WTA semifinal at 's-Hertogenbosch and back-to-back fourth rounds at Indian Wells and Miami, and nearly breaking the Top 50. But fate intervened - she underwent ankle surgery on July 2 and missed all tournaments the rest of the season.
Her long break didn't seem to leave any bad effects, though - she came right out of the blocks again in the first week of the 2014 season, reaching the quarterfinals of Auckland before falling to Venus Williams, and now she's a first-time WTA champion, winning all 15 sets she played during the week.
Zakopalova was playing the 13th WTA final of her career and now has a 2-11 record in those.
There was a silver lining though - Zakopalova returned the court later on for the doubles final alongside Monica Niculescu, and they won, beating No.2 seeds Lisa Raymond and Zhang Shuai in a match tie-break, 62 67(5) 108. The Romanian-Czech duo actually battled back from 6-1 down in the breaker.
Niculescu and Zakopalova won their second WTA doubles title together, having won their first just a week ago in Shenzhen. Niculescu and Zakopalova now have four WTA doubles titles each.