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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday November 17, 2021

 
Muguruza v Kontaveit

Annet Kontaveit and Garbine Muguruza will battle for one of the biggest prizes in women's tennis on Wednesay in Guadalajara.

Photo Source: Getty

Garbiñe Muguruza refers to the playing the WTA Finals as an “opportunity of a lifetime” and the Spaniard, a former World No.1 and two-time major champion, has made the most of it, reaching her biggest final since the 2020 Australian Open in Guadalajara.

Tennis Express

For Anett Kontaveit, Muguruza’s opponent on Wednesday’s grand finale at the WTA Finals, the final three months of the 2021 season have been one giant opportunity. The Estonian – the first woman from her country to ever play the WTA Finals – has reeled off 29 wins and four titles since late August, catching fire with new coach Dmitry Tursunov at the helm, gaining in confidence with every victory.


And then there were two: Muguruza, the experienced veteran seeking a return to glory on one of the biggest stages in women’s tennis; Kontaveit, a rising thunderbolt seeking to prove that not only can she win, but she can win THE BIG ONE.

It’s a fascinating matchup between two players who have gained familiarity with one another over the last month. Muguruza was drubbed by Kontaveit in the Moscow quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-1, but took some revenge in Guadalajara, stopping Kontaveit’s 12-match winning streak, 6-4, 6-4.

*But both matches deserve an asterisk.*

In Moscow, Kontaveit was hungry for wins, far from WTA Finals qualification, while Muguruza was perhaps far from her competitive best, and thinking of what waited for her on the horizon.

“That match really wasn't my day,” Muguruza said last week.

When the pair met on Sunday in round robin play, Kontaveit had already locked up first place in the group while Muguruza desperately needed the win to qualify for the semifinals in Guadalajara.

“I think I made way too many unforced errors,” Kontaveit said, after playing at night in Guadalajara for the first time. “I mean, I don't think I played a very good match. I just wish I could have done a better job today.”

Now they wipe the slate clean and play their most important match by far.

Inside the Numbers

28: Muguruza is bidding to become the oldest champion at the WTA Finals since Serena Williams in 2014.

90: Percentage of service games won by Kontaveit in Guadalajara, which is significantly higher than her season average of 73.3 percent. Muguruza, has done well in this category as well, winning 83.3 percent of her serviced games and saving 70.4 percent of her break points.

Players say that serving at altitude has been tricky, but maybe it's the returning that is really difficult? Just a thought...

13-2: Muguruza’s record on Mexican soil. The Spaniard’s “Guadalajara vibe” has been one of the key intangibles of her run. She is soaking up the energy of the place, its people and forming a significant bond with the fans.

“Probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me in my career to play a Masters in Mexico,” Muguruza said on Tuesday after topping Paula Badosa in the semifinals. “It's a cocktail for me that's super motivating.

“Every time I came here to Mexico, I always feel very welcome, very happy. The environment just clicks with me. Having a Masters played this year, it was like, Okay, Garbine, this is your opportunity. You got to give it all no matter you win or lose. You have to get out of here and feel like, Man, I gave all my energy. Yeah, I think I'm doing that.”

48: Kontaveit is now the WTA’s win leader with 48 wins and 16 losses in 2021. Who saw that coming after Cincinnati? 29 wins later, here we are.

1993: The last time a Spanish player – Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario – played the WTA Finals title match. Muguruza seeks to become the first Spanish singles champion at the WTA Finals.

39: Kontaveit is the WTA’s hard court win leader with 39. Muguruza has 34.

3: Regardless of the result in the final, Muguruza will climb to No.3 in the WTA rankings – her best ranking since 2017. Kontaveit will rise to 7, and 6 if she wins the title.

Kontaveit: Nothing to Lose

It’s an overused cliché, but in Kontaveit’s case, judging from how she played the third set on Tuesday against Sakkari, she really does intend to play like she’s got nothing to lose. Many have tried – and failed – to do so in the biggest final of their career, so the challenge on Wednesday for Kontaveit is to make her words ring true.


"I think for me, I was the last one to qualify here. I don't really have anything to lose," Kontaveit said. "Everything that I'm doing here is a bonus for me. I'm really actually looking forward to the match. I hope I get to enjoy it as much as I can, take it all in, just realize what I've done in the last few months. This is the last big challenge that I have this year, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Muguruza: In the perfect competitive posture

Muguruza has had time to adjust to the altitude, and really feel her game over the course of four matches in Guadalajara. Now, the challenge is to take it one step further against Kontaveit. She is burning with desire to capture this title, and it shows in every move she makes. The challenge for her will be to avoid a letdown. If she keeps progressing and takes one more step she’ll be right where she wants to be.


“I feel like I've struggled the first couple of matches,” she said. “One, I didn't find the way. The other one, I did. All of those circumstances helps you to find the way, the way to play here, to find your shots, to serve, to have a game plan. Because I struggled and went through the tough times, it's like a little progression, you know? Sometimes it's not like that. Sometimes it goes just worst. I feel like in this time it really helped me.”

 

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