Garbiñe Muguruza came from a set and a break down to overwhelm Ons Jabeur with a third-set bagel in the final of the Chicago Fall Classic on Sunday, winning the WTA 500 title in the Windy City, 3-6 6-3 6-0.
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. Garbiñe Muguruza
It was an extraordinary turnaround by the Spanish second seed, who turns 28 on Friday.
“That was a battle, especially those first sets,” Muguruza said afterwards. “We’ve played recently, this year at Wimbledon, and it was a very tough match, and I knew that she’s having one of the best seasons that a player can have.
“I was prepared, I went out there with all the fighting spirit in the pocket!”
From 3-all in the second set, Muguruza took the last 9 games to coast to her 9th career title, and the second of 2021 since winning in Dubai in March.
“I’m very happy so far,” Muguruza told WTA Insider after the trophy ceremony. “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.”
Jabeur, the No 6 seed in Chicago, who came into the week ranked a career-high of 16, broke Muguruza in the 4th game and held serve from there to take the first set.
In the second, the Tunisian broke again to seize control, but surrendered her advantage when she sent a backhand wide, and Muguruza pounced to level at 3-3.
The Spaniard broke again in the 8th game and served for the set at 5-3 and although Jabeur denied her 4 set points and had 2 break chances, Muguruza forced the decider with a service winner.
A brief delay as rain sprinkles made the lines slick had the players sitting court-side ahead of the third set and, when play resumed, Muguruza was rampant, ruthlessly dismantling the Jabeur forehand that rendered the Tunisian helpless at times.
“She was playing amazing in the first set, and my level was not at what it should be to play against her,” Muguruza added. “I slowly found a space in the second set to break, and to get that one, and force a decider.
“That gave me the extra confidence I needed, and also the energy to go and get the trophy.”
The match followed the pattern set in their previous two encounters, with the loser of the first set coming from behind to win the contest and, on this occasion, Muguruza zipped through the final set to claim the crown after an hour and 37 minutes of play.
Jabeur used her wide array of court craft from the get-go, and a tremendous crosscourt forehand set up a backhand winner to help her break to love for 3-1, which was all she needed to pocket the opening gambit with a divine drop-shot that tailed away from the chasing Muguruza.
The Spaniard steered herself into contention after dropping serve in the first game of the second, grabbing her first break of the day immediately after and, while Jabeur used an amazing passing shot to move ahead by a break again at 3-2, Muguruza’s big hitting kicked off her comeback as she broke back for 3-3.
It was the start of a 10 game run for the second seed, although she struggled to serve out the set at 5-3, squandering her first 4 set points and staring down 2 break points before pulling it off on her 5th chance when Jabeur netted her return.
After the brief rain delay Muguruza cruised through to the bagel as Jabeur’s resistance faded, the Tunisian increasingly chattering to her box and helplessly shrugging her shoulders.
“The match against [Mai] Hontama was great because she gave me rhythm and I had to fight and dig in,” Muguruza added. “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.”
Muguruza received 2 walkovers this week, from Victoria Azarenka and Marketa Vondrousova,
“Obviously it was a weird situation,” she told WTA Insider. “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.”
Jabeur was made to battle in the 5 matches she played in Chicago, 3 of which were 3-setters, but the Tunisian has been on a roll of late, ousting top seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals here, and having won her only WTA title in June at Birmingham to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA event.
She rises to No 14 in the World this week in the rankings but remains at No 9 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, agonisingly short of qualification for Guadalajara.
While Muguruza improved her career rivalry with Jabeur to 2-1, and gained 3 spots in the rankings to No 6, the Spaniard also rises to No 6 in the Race, which greatly improves her chances of reaching the year-ending championship where only the top 8 players on the leaderboard qualify.
The former World No 1 has not reached the WTA Finals since 2017, while Jabeur has never qualified, and both will feature at Indian Wells, which begins on Wednesday in California, with much still to play for as this season draws to a close.
Due to the threat of more rain, the doubles final, which was scheduled for after the singles final, was moved indoors, but the change of scenery did not stop Czech Kveta Peschke & Andrea Petkovic from Germany claim the title, 6-3 6-1, over the American wild-cards Caroline Dolehide & CoCo Vandeweghe.
Peschke & Petkovic were outstanding on return, going 7-for-7 on break point conversions to notch the title after just over an hour of play.
After being forced into 10-8 match-tiebreaks in their second-round and quarter-final matches, the pair won their last two contests in straight sets.
For 46-year-old Peschke, who is a former WTA Doubles World No 1, it was her 36 WTA doubles titles overall, and her first of 2021, while for Petkovic, a former Top 10 singles player, Chicago is the first WTA doubles title of her career, following two runner-up showings.