The Insider Wrap is a weekly recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at a week of Spanish dominance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Abierto Zapopan.
Player of the Week: Garbiñe Muguruza
With the tennis Garbiñe Muguruza was bringing day in and day out in 2021, it was only a matter of time before she got her hands on a big title. Playing in her tour-leading third final of the season, the former No.1 finally came through to win her biggest title since 2017 Cincinnati, defeating Barbora Krejcikova 7-6(6), 6-3 to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“I’m very motivated,” Muguruza said, when asked to describe her overall mood in the midst of this resurgent run of results. “I’ve been working hard, I have a good team around me.
“I feel it’s a good moment, a good moment in my career, with my age, with my knowledge, the things that I’ve achieved. I don’t think I have to prove no more that I can win a Grand Slam, that I can be No.1. This is over. Now is the time to just forget all those things that when you’re young you’re thinking, when am I going to win a Grand Slam? When am I going to No.2 or No.1? All of those things are gone already.
“Of course I want to be in those positions again but this is not the pressure anymore. I’ve done it and I want to do it again. That’s how I feel right now.”
The numbers behind Muguruza’s 2021 start are impressive. She is the winningest player on tour, tallying a record of 18-4 over five tournaments, and she has done so while facing tough draws all year. Three of her four losses came to Top 10 opponents – No.1 Ashleigh Barty, No.2 Naomi Osaka and No.10 Petra Kvitova. In fact, Muguruza’s average rank of opponent is 41.9 across 22 matches, the second-highest of any player who has played five or more matches this season. Only Victoria Azarenka’s average of 37.8 over five matches has been tougher.
In Dubai, Muguruza tallied three Top 20 wins over three tough outs. She eased past Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, beat Aryna Sabalenka for the second consecutive week in a physical three-setter and broke through Elise Mertens’ defenses in the semifinals.
Barbora Krejcikova is into ther 1st WTA 1000 singles final after a 75 62 win over Jil Teichmann. Incredible week for the former doubles No.1, whose singles game has come together since the summer restart. #DDFTennis https://t.co/1gOtVv70eN
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) March 12, 2021
Surprise of the Week: Barbora Krejcikova
If Muguruza’s Dubai triumph felt inevitable, Barbora Krejcikova’s breakthrough week brought the intrigue. The former doubles No.1 continues to break new ground in her singles career, as she dismantled a draw that included wins over Maria Sakkari, Jelena Ostapenko, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Potapova and Jil Teichmann to make her first WTA 1000 final without dropping a set.
Sara Sorribes Tormo
Spain reigned not only in Dubai but in Mexico as well. Sara Sorribes Tormo captured her first WTA title at the Abierto Zapopan in Guadalajara, taking the WTA 250 title with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Eugenie Bouchard. The 24-year-old was tested in her first round, beating Greet Minnen in three sets, before defeating Leonie Kung, Astra Sharma, and her good friend Marie Bouzkova in the semifinals.
The Spaniard continues to inch toward her Top 50 debut by quietly posting strong hardcourt results. She made her first WTA 500 quarterfinal at the end of last season, doing so as a qualifier in Ostrava, and then made another at the start of the season in Abu Dhabi, where she upset Nadia Podoroska in the first round.
Alexa Guarachi and Darija Jurak
A temporary pairing for the Middle East swing, Alexa Guarachi and Darija Jurak took home the biggest titles of their respective careers at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
For the third straight week, a Swiss player advanced to the semifinals or better at a WTA event. Teichmann has made a semifinal in two of the past three weeks, doing so at the Adelaide International and now her biggest semifinal in Dubai.
Teichmann was in fine form in her second-round win over Doha champion Petra Kvitova, who retired late in the second set, and followed it up with wins over Ons Jabeur and Coco Gauff. Traditionally more comfortable on clay – her two WTA titles in Prague and Palermo underscore that fact – it’s notable that Teichmann’s best results in the past two seasons have come on quick outdoor hardcourts.
The Belgian is a tough out. Mertens pulled off a memorable comeback in the Dubai quarterfinals against Jessica Pegula. Down 7-5, 5-2, Mertens would save three match points and take the last 11 games of the match to win 5-7, 7-5, 6-0. Then, playing in her second WTA 1000 semifinal since last summer’s restart, Mertens saved six match points before finally succumbing to Muguruza, 6-4, 7-6(5).
How hard is it to get over the finish line against Mertens? Muguruza’s reaction said it all:
The American’s loss to Mertens from match points up will sting, but Pegula capped off her fantastic start of the season with her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal appearance. Now up to a career-high No.33, Pegula heads home to prepare for the Miami Open off this string of results:
Yarra Valley Classic: Round of 16
Australian Open: Quarterfinal
Qatar Total Open: Semifinal
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships: Quarterfinal
The 17-year-old American has found a new gear in the past three weeks. Heading into the Adelaide International, Gauff had won back-to-back main-draw matches just once in her previous nine events. But something clicked in Adelaide, where she made her first WTA 500 semifinal, and she followed up that result with her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Dubai.
Still working to make her way back inside the Top 100, Eugenie Bouchard took a late wildcard into Guadalajara and played some great tennis to make her eighth WTA final. Bouchard flew from Lyon, France, and landed the night before her first-round match, working through her fatigue and jet lag to make the final with just one set lost. En route, she defeated Caroline Dolehide, Kaja Juvan, Caty McNally and Elisabetta Cocciaretto, before losing to Sorribes Tormo.
The affable Czech unknowingly played three matches with a coin in her shoe – see above – and was one of the first people to congratulate her best friend Sara Sorribes Tormo after her title win. Bouzkova was voted by her fellow players as the 2020 Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award winner and it’s never a mystery as to why.
9: Match Points saved by Elise Mertens in Dubai.
115: Barbora Krejcikova’s singles ranking 12 months ago. On Monday she rose to a career-high No.38.
2011: The last season in which two Spanish players won a singles title in the same week. That season, Anabel Medina Garrigues won Palermo the same week that Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez won Bad Gastein.
2015: The last time Garbiñe Muguruza made three finals in a season. In her breakout season, Muguruza made the final of Wimbledon and Wuhan before winning the China Open in Beijing.
2016: The last season in which a Spanish player other than Garbiñe Muguruza won a singles title. That season, Carla Suárez Navarro won Doha and Lara Arruabarrena won Seoul.
2018: The last time two Spanish players won a singles or doubles title in the same week. That season in Monterrey, Garbiñe Muguruza won the singles title in Monterrey and Sara Sorribes Tormo won the doubles title with Naomi Broady.
Photo of the Week
Quote of the Week: Garbiñe Muguruza
“I’m zero superstitious. I don’t believe in luck.”