It has been a couple of years since Garbiñe Muguruza won her last WTA Tournament, and she is super proud to have finally landed the Dubai Duty Free title, beating surprise finalist Barbora Krejcikova 7-6(6) 6-3 on Saturday night.
I lost finals before so I really wanted this title. I mean it paid off this week. The other weeks I was close, but today I fought harder. I am very happy about it. I feel like the consistency is so hard to get. Being able to play three finals is a great sign we are on the right way. It was very challenging I feel more than think with so many things that happened in this Middle East Swing but we stood strong. Garbiñe Muguruza
“I always believed every time that I go out there, I’m one of the players that can get the trophy,” Muguruza said. “There is proof this week, yes, but I’ve always believed that, in good moments and in bad moments.
“It means a lot, it’s never easy to win titles. It doesn’t happen often, and I’m excited that it happened now, after a few finals that didn’t go my way.
“A nice relief to be able to hold a champion’s trophy.”
Muguruza edged past the former WTA doubles World No 1 from the Czech Republic after 2 hours 8 minutes to claim her 8th career title and her first trophy since taking the Monterrey tournament in April 2019.
Since then she finished as the runner-up at the 2020 Australian Open and, this year, also at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne and in Doha last week.
Her tally of titles includes two Grand Slams, at Roland Garros 2016 and Wimbledon 2017, when she also reached the World No 1 spot in the rankings.
The Spaniard, who lost to Petra Kvitova in Doha just a week ago, went up in the 6th game after trading breaks at the start of the first set, taking a 4-2 lead, but Krejkova broke straight back and held on.
Muguruza orchestrated 3 set points at 6-5 but, again, Krejcikova resisted, saving them all to hold serve and send them into a tense tiebreak.
The Czech’s fluid game gave her the mini-break as she went up 5-3 in the breaker, and she earned herself a set point at 6-5, but Muguruza won 2 consecutive points to bring up a 4th chance to pocket the set at 7-6, converting after 65 minutes when Krejikova hit a forehand wide.
“It was such a tight match,” Muguruza said. “It could have gone either way. I feel like the finals are very hard, the two best players of that week, and I had to work hard for it tonight. Very happy about it.”
There was controversy, however, that probably fuelled the Spaniard’s resolve, when Krejikova took herself off the court at the changeover for a bathroom break that last 12 minutes, leaving Muguruza to scamper around the baseline, keeping herself going in the cool evening.
“I had to work so hard for it in the first set, the difference of one point, and I’m happy that it went my way,” Muguruza said later, avoiding the issue.
When the 25-year old Czech eventually re-appeared, she had taken a change of clothes which, added to the lengthy delay at the start of the match, when she called for the trainer after the warm-up to tend to her thumb, merely added insult to injury.
It certainly did not enamour her to commentators or television audiences, prompting again a call for a change in the rules that allow for these tactical breaks, which are made in an effort to stall momentum.
Clearly Muguruza was equally unimpressed, and she worked hard for her lead in the second set, grabbing a break in a lengthy first game before consolidating for 2-0 in another battle after saving 3 break points on her own delivery.
Once she had muscled the advantage, the Spaniard never let go for the rest of the encounter, steely to the end.
An ace to hold for 5-3 set up the match game for Muguruza, who raced to triple match point on the Czech’s serve, and she converted on her 2nd chance to become the first Spanish singles champion in Dubai.
“Everybody that is playing well and feels good [any] week can get the trophy, this is how hard women’s tennis is now,” Muguruza said.
“Very happy that I managed for two weeks to be able to reach the last match, because it’s never easy.
“You have all these opponents, having to play ten matches in a row, makes it difficult.
“It’s very hard, and I’m happy that I managed well. Physically it was hard but I was happy that I could handle that.”
The Dubai title caps her strong start to the 2021 season in which she has been the most consistent player on tour and could well have added a 3rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open had she taken any of the 2 match points she held against eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the 4th round.
The relief was evident as Muguruza completed her victory on Saturday, watched via mobile phone by her coach Conchita Martinez, who is home in Barcelona following her bout of coronavirus in Doha.
“I lost finals before so I really wanted this title,” Muguruza added. “I mean it paid off this week. The other weeks I was close, but today I fought harder.
“I am very happy about it. I feel like the consistency is so hard to get. Being able to play three finals is a great sign we are on the right way.
“It was very challenging I feel more than think with so many things that happened in this Middle East Swing but we stood strong.”
With powerful play exhibited by both women, Muguruza was cleaner on the day, with her 31 winners matching her 31 unforced errors, while Krejcikova, who was seeking her first career WTA singles title in her 2nd singles final, found her 21 winners were outweighed by 29 unforced errors.
“I am very proud of my whole team all week. It was a very tough week,” Muguruza concluded.
“I feel like if you want to get the trophy you have to beat everybody on the way. Today was a very tough match, but all of them were tough.”
In the doubles final, played earlier in the day, No 8 seeds Alexa Guarachi & Darija Jurak breezed to the title, defeating the Chinese pair of Xu Yifan & Yang Zhaoxuan, 6-0 6-3, in just 53 minutes.
Guarachi & Jurak, who are from Chile and Croatia, won over 70 percent of returning points in the trophy match, as they completed their week with only 1 of their 5 matches going into a match-tiebreak, against No 3 seeds Nicole Melichar & Demi Schuurs in the quarter-finals.
It is the first team title for Guarachi & Jurak, who fell to Melichar & Schuurs in the first round at Doha last week.
Guarachi, who reached the Roland Garros final last year alongside regular partner Desirae Krawczyk, picked up her 4th career WTA doubles title, and her 2nd of the season.
It is a 7th career WTA doubles title for Jurak, and her first since she triumphed alongside Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez at the Bronx in the summer of 2019.