The question of whether Garbiñe Muguruza has the motivation to get up for tournaments, as opposed to just pulling out a performance on the big stage was asked and answered. In the oppressive heat of Final Sunday in Cincinnati, Muguruza effectively squashed Simona Halep’s hopes of gaining the World No. 1 spot with a controlled display of all round court craft.
From the start, Muguruza was serving with pin-point accuracy, never allowing Halep to gain any rhythm or control in the points. To be fair to the Romanian, who was an agonising five points adrift of the World No. 1 spot, her attitude started positively and coach Darren Cahill did his best to reassure her that the opening exchanges had been just a matter of the small margins.
The margins, however, got bigger as Muguruza refused to relent. Halep struggled more and more to keep that positivity going. As her head began to drop, especially after failing to break at 0-3 down in a long game with her only break point opportunities of the match, it really became a foregone conclusion. Finishing at a complete canter, Muguruza broke one more time before serving out to love to win her first Cincinnati title, and to put herself squarely in contention as one of the favourites for this year’s US Open.
Halep: ‘Maybe one day it will be there’
To have been within a whisker of the World No. 1 spot before walking out on court, only to be battered off the court, Halep remained poised and indeed at times brutally honest about what happened out there.
She told reporters: “[Muguruza] played really well, first of all, and she was hitting very strong, and after a few games I got down with the confidence. I tried to hit the ball and couldn’t much. Then I tried to go back a little bit and was not good. So today I don’t really know what I had to do, and I think she was just too good today.
“I think I will have two days off. I think it’s still available, the offer that Darren gave me yesterday, two days off after this tournament (smiling). After this match, I’m not sure, but yeah, I hope to have rest I need. I played three tournaments in a row. And I played well in the last two.”
The question now is whether the prospect of the achievement of No. 1 is proving to be more of a stumbling block. This is the third time she has been just one win away, and this time it is fair to say she came up very short.
Halep said: “It’s tough to analyse anymore about this thing. Maybe I feel the pressure and I don’t realise it. Maybe I just played bad. I don’t know what to say. But it’s still there. I have still — I still have a chance. So I will work for it, and maybe one day it will be there.”
Muguruza conquers the US Swing
The difference in stature between Muguruza on the way into the French Open, and in the aftermath of a bruising loss in the fourth round of her title defence, compared to her now after her second Slam title in two years is vast – like a switch has come on and has lit her path in the brightest of light.
Muguruza admitted that more than just this match had come together, in her post match press conference: “I felt there was a key game in the second set, the 3-0 game, but I felt — I felt very comfortable there, playing against Simona, and also my level was very high. So I felt like especially in the second set I could raise it a little bit more and close the match.
“Since the first ball, honestly, I knew there was going to be a lot of long rallies, and she’s a very solid player and, you know, very tough, as well. I was ready for it. I was looking to play my game, to be aggressive since the first moment, and then after, I was improving a little bit, a little bit more until the second set, also, played better.”
With all thoughts now turning to the US Open, and obviously with a big win and some deep runs in the warm-up tournaments, Muguruza might bat off speculation that she is the favourite but the groundwork has certainly been laid.
She admitted: “In the past, this swing is never my best swing, and I’m happy that this year I kind of have a consistency of my results. And then here in Cincinnati, much better result. So, yes, because, you know, was always, like, oh, the American swing is never going my way. So finally, this year, you know, I improved that.”
The US Open takes place between 28 August to 10 September.
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