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Garbiñe Muguruza in 2021: the story of a renaissance

At the age of 28, Garbiñe Muguruza has made a stunning return to the top three for the first time since 2017 thanks to her triumph at the WTA Finals – look back at her year

Garbiñe Muguruza, 2021 year in review © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

After three years outside the top 10, Garbiñe Muguruza is ending the year on the third step of the world rankings. The Spaniard has won three tournaments this year, her best total in a season, and extends her record to ten career titles. The former world No 1 became the first Spanish player to win the year-end WTA Finals, her biggest title along with Roland-Garros in 2016 and Wimbledon the year after.

  • Ranking at the end of 2020: 15
  • Ranking at the end of 2021: 3
  • Win-loss: 42-17
  • Titles: 3 (10 career)

Muguruza’s best performance: Winning the WTA Finals

Garbiñe Muguruza’s best results this season have come on hard courts, with all three of her titles this year coming on the surface – Dubai, Chicago and finishing the year in style at the WTA Final in Guadalajara, her biggest title since Wimbledon 2017. She showed some tenacity, though, coming close to elimination in the group stages after losing her first match to Karolina Pliskova and being down a set to Barbora Krejcikova, coming through to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Ultimately, Muguruza – seeded sixth at the Finals – won five of her six matches. In the final, she won 6-3, 7-5 against the player in form at the end of the season, Anett Kontaveit, who had won 12 of her last 13 matches. The other defeat in that streak had also come at the hands of the Spaniard, five days previously in their group stage match.

Muguruza’s best Grand Slam performance: The round of 16 at both hard court Slams

Muguruza, a finalist at the 2020 Australian Open, has not had the same success at Grand Slams this year, with two round of 16 appearances her best result. At the Australian Open, however, she had two match points against eventual champion Naomi Osaka (4-6, 6-4, 7-5) and is the only player to have managed to take a set from the Japanese star on her way to the title. At the US Open, it was another Grand Slam winner, Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, who knocked her out (6-3, 7-6[4]).

Muguruza’s high point: A strong start, a fabulous finish

Her strong start to the year gave her the confidence to set the stage on hard court for the second half of the season. She erased her disappointing 2020, when she did not win a single title, by playing three finals in two months – at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, in Doha and in Dubai. After two losses (to Petra Kvitova and Ash Barty), the third one was the charm – in the WTA 500 in the United Arab Emirates, she dominated three top 20 players, Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka for the second week in a row, Elise Mertens and then Krejcikova in the final (7-6[6], 6-3).

In October, Muguruza won her second title of the season in Chicago, defeating the in-form Ons Jabeur (3-6, 6-3, 6-0). She turned around a poorly-executed first set and won ten games in a row to take a serious step forward in the race to qualify for the WTA Finals.

The best moment of her season was obviously the showcase in Guadalajara.

“It’s been a long time since I won a big title and I felt relieved to win these Finals, really,” she said in an interview with Spanish sports media Mundo Deportivo. “It’s very difficult to achieve and the suffering was worth it.”

There is no better feeling than having my name in history.

Garbiñe Muguruza

Muguruza has always done well in Mexico, where she has now won three of her ten titles.

“There is no better feeling than having my name in history. When I heard that the Finals were going to be played in Mexico, in Latin America. I told myself I had to go there and I did.”

Muguruza’s low point: Her stint on clay, crashing out at Roland-Garros

Her elimination in the first round of the French Open by Marta Kostyuk, 6-1, 6-4, was an embarrassment for the former winner of the tournament – her worst defeat at Roland-Garros.

A muscle injury in her left thigh, suffered in Charleston during her warm-up for Paris, had set her back. In the round of 16 of the WTA 500 in April, the pain forced her to withdraw from her match against Yulia Putintseva, despite a 6-0, 2-2 lead. She then skipped Madrid, meaning she played only one other match on clay in preparation for Roland-Garros – a round of 16 match in Rome, defeated by Elina Svitolina (6-4, 6-2).

Muguruza off the court

After winning the WTA Finals, Muguruza was received by the King and Queen of Spain, before attending the Vanity Fair Personality of the Year 2021 award, where she posed for the first time for the photographers with her partner, Arthur Borges, director of the costume division of the American brand Tom Ford. The next day, on 1 December, she was invited by Real Madrid to kick off the La Liga match between the club and Atletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Garbiñe Muguruza on the field with Real Madrid (© Panoramic)

Muguruza on social media

Muguruza’s interests include fashion – hence the red carpets at plenty of glamorous parties – and she also posts on social media about some of the sunshine holidays she enjoys.

Muguruza’s self-assessment: ‘My best year’

“It is my best year – I have won more titles and I have reached more finals than ever before. I am at my best, in terms of my experience, calmness, solidity. I am happy, and it has shown. It has been a stressful tournament [the WTA Finals], I have reflected on myself a lot but I’ve turned it around like an ant, little by little. I’ve been able to be my friend and not put myself down. A while ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

I’ve been able to be my friend and not put myself down. A while ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

Garbiñe Muguruza

Muguruza now wants to win more Grand Slams and feels she is in a good place to turn in an impressive 2022.

“There are more big titles to come. They are the tournaments that motivate me the most and make me ambitious. The ranking [of world No 1] was of its time and is always there, but I prefer the trophies now that I have lived both. Touching a trophy is the best feeling.”

Tennis Majors’s assessment

At 28, Garbiñe Muguruza has reached a new career goal by winning the WTA Finals and is back on top after several difficult years. In the past, she has struggled with expectations, but experience now helps her deal with pressure and setbacks.

In her second spell with Conchita Martinez, who coached her to a Wimbledon triumph in 2017, Muguruza looks much more fulfilled. Her results on hard court speak for themselves. With her power and quality of service, her goal of winning the two Grand Slams that are missing from her record is far from unthinkable – especially with the way she has played on hard courts in recent weeks. She will be one to watch in Melbourne.

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