Seven years ago, as Garbiñe Muguruza rose through the ranks and was in sight, she already knew she had one of the decisions of her life ahead of her. Muguruza grew up in the courts of Caracas, Venezuela, where she was born to her Venezuelan mother and Basque father, and where she stayed until the age of six before moving to Barcelona.
At 21, and with pressure from both sides as her career blossomed, she finally decided which country she would represent, a process she described as “really difficult, thoughtful and delicate”. After choosing Spain, however, she clearly expressed the intensity of her feelings for both countries: “I carry Venezuela and Spain in my blood and in my heart,” she said.
As she rose to world No. 1 and won two major titles, her roots were still there. On the few occasions she was able to compete in any Latin American country, the support for one of the few Latin American-born players at the top of the game has been relentless. When it was announced that this year’s WTA Finals would be played in Guadalajara, Mexico for a year, Muguruza said she made it her goal to be there. Last Wednesday, she lifted the trophy as the crowd chanted her name into the night.
Her path to victory was a demonstration of the experience she gained. After losing her opener 7-6 (6) in the third set to Karolina Pliskova, then losing the first set to Barbora Krejcikova, Muguruza won eight straight sets to claim the title.
Against two much less experienced players in knockout matches, Anett Kontaveit and Paula Badosa, Muguruza played with furious intensity, forcing them to match her point-for-point focus in one of the biggest matches of their careers.
Muguruza finally got the kind of result that, under the calming influence of Conchita Martínez, happened. She has rediscovered her suffocating aggression from the baseline, is a more reliable player and is now well positioned to chase major titles in the new year.
As WTA CEO Steve Simon threatened to reconsider WTA’s relationship with China after being unable to speak with Peng Shuai, this week in Guadalajara was a glimpse of an alternate future. The event would have taken place, as usual, in Shenzhen, China with a lot of money and few fans, had it not been for the pandemic and China’s continued ban on international sporting events. Instead, despite a more modest total price tag of $ 5 million, the Guadalajara stadium was often crowded, with passionate fans infusing the matches with tension and meaning.
As Muguruza clinched his title in Turin, the men’s event neared the end of its own round robin group stage. After a decade at the O2 Arena, Turin seemed to offer an opportunity for a meaningful reset and it looked like a missed opportunity as the event opted for an identical color scheme and lighting in London.
But what he showed was a glimpse into the future. Novak Djokovic was the only man in the top eight over the age of 25 and most of these young players towered over him in their promotional photoshoot, highlighting the direction in which the men’s tour is heading on the pitch. The final pitted Daniil Medvedev against Alexander Zverev, who are currently the most successful players. Both are 6-foot-6 with big first serves, capable returns and, most importantly, they are two of the best players on the tour despite their size.
They are also the two most notable players who have been able to defeat Djokovic this year and benefit from his absence. This time it was Zverev who dominated and beat Djokovic in their straight-set semi-final before responding to his round robin loss to Medvedev with a convincing 6-4, 6-4 victory in the final. He is the first man since Djokovic in 2015 to win multiple ATP finals titles.
This is Zverev’s best season and since July he has won 31 of his 35 games, winning Olympic gold, ATP Finals and titles in Cincinnati and Turin, while also tying his career ranking of No 3. On hard indoor courts, especially quieter courts. from Turin, his combination of huge serve, athleticism and much greater confidence in his forehand make him such a tough opponent.
However, there remains the ATP investigation into the allegations of domestic violence against him by his ex-girlfriend, Olya Sharypova, which they announced in early October. Zverev denies the allegations and praised the investigation when it was announced. There hasn’t been an ATP update but Zverev is no shortage of support in the locker room.
After Zverev’s victory, Djokovic referred to his problems on social media and emphasized how Zverev was a “good guy”. “Alex Zverev has had a difficult year on / off the pitch,” he said. “I know how much tennis helps me grow and I’m happy it’s Sascha’s winning field this year.”