Garbiñe Muguruza powered through in her final WTA Finals match, rising from a slow start to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Madison Keys on Thursday night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I just knew I had to be ready because the last six weeks have been brutal,” Muguruza said after the win, the Spaniard’s third in a row in the season-ending tournament.
The women’s bracket featured two first-time finalists who entered the final race up the rankings ladder. Muguruza was eliminated in her semi-final match Wednesday, while Keys was upending a previous champ in Monday’s final.
This was Muguruza’s second title this year, following an upset of Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final in July, her second Grand Slam title. She won the 2017 French Open in June. She joins Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s uncle and coach, as the only two Spanish tennis players to win the WTA Finals.
“I think I’m more confident with myself and what I can do,” Muguruza said. “My head is in the right place.
“We try to take every match as it comes, and I don’t play the same for every match. I am trying to do the best I can to be winning at every match. I’m trying to enjoy it. I’m really enjoying the period of time, because I feel like everyone is working very hard to have a better understanding of the players that are there.”
Four players started Thursday with at least one Grand Slam title. Muguruza also added the WTA Finals to her list of 2017 singles wins.
By the time Keys made her way to the net following Muguruza’s third match point, she had already been distracted by a break on her serve. The American glared and argued with the line judge at 30-all in the 11th game, asking where the ball was from, then shouted.
The lineswoman replied that she found it at the baseline, although her pause could have been interpreted as a “no,” and got reprimanded by the chair umpire. Keys immediately returned the ball to Muguruza and took five points, but it counted for just two points.
Greeted with cheers and applause, Keys did not look unsettled by the decision. After the decision, she buried her head in her hands and hit an overhead into the stands, then hit a shot into the net.
“You don’t really hear it,” Muguruza said about the line judge’s response. “It’s so hard to hear. I just followed what she said, and that’s the end of it.”
Afterward, Keys said she would be prepared to put the whole thing behind her. She will head home for the holidays, likely before she regains her game from lingering from a variety of ailments that forced her to miss the second half of the season.
She has played three tournaments over the last month, entering the WTA Finals fresh off a 20-month sabbatical that included knee surgery, a concussions diagnosis and emergency removal of a cyst. She returned after three tournaments early this year, but the mental fatigue of competing in matches on a different circuit — with a different schedule — overwhelmed her.
“I felt as if I was playing different matches to everyone else,” Keys said. “It was always like, ‘I’m starting again.’ ”
Even now, after returning home to the United States, Keys said she doesn’t have enough time to truly evaluate what happened during the season. She said she is sure she was not happy with her body and that, in retrospect, she could have done a better job of implementing the changes she had in mind before the season.
But it doesn’t seem to have taken away her optimism, even though she acknowledged that she failed to defend the confidence she had built up by rising back into the top 10 earlier this year.
“I don’t think you can live in the present,” Keys said. “Every point that’s going to be played, every opportunity that you have in a match, is the biggest of your life. I think with that amount of pressure, that was the hardest one I’ve had to deal with.”