At least Garbiñe Muguruza wanted to reach the final. In the end, she would need to beat a player who, deep down, she believed was just as determined.
Muguruza routed the hugely talented and enormously talented Madison Keys 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday at the WTA Finals, putting her one match away from taking home the $3 million prize. If the 22-year-old goes the distance, she’ll be the first Spaniard to win the tournament since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 2004.
Her pal Ana Ivanovic gave her a look before the final two players faced off. Which one was the better player?
“Of course she’s really athletic and you know, you kind of kind of play [it] a little bit that way,” Muguruza said, chuckling. “I’m not going to lie and say that I would say I would have a chance to beat her, but I want to play, and so I believe that I can.”
Muguruza, the 2015 Wimbledon champion, was already in prime position to make history. After her semifinal win over Venus Williams, she was just one victory away from tying the tournament record for Spaniards, set by Jana Novotna in 1998.
On Friday, the French Open champ might need to win in straight sets. Despite being without her Swiss and German tournament sponsors, it’s still the Wilson Classic in Stanford, Calif. that occupies her thoughts, and she’s raised the possibility of playing that event if Williams recovers from injury.
“I could play here,” she said. “But I’m going to try to work on the overall health and try to practice with [Williams] in a few days to make sure she’s ready. I’m not thinking about it, but if I play here, it’s like it’s my grand slam as well.”
Muguruza has reached the finals in both 2013 and 2015. As was the case in 2014, she feels her game has grown over the past few months.
“I think I’m in a better position for this tournament this year,” she said. “I was also in a semis last year, and I lost to Simona [Halep] that time. She was obviously in a great year, so I had some decent years in this tournament.”
As Muguruza prepares to take on Dominika Cibulkova, she’s sitting pretty as the 21st-ranked player in the world.