China Open: Garbine Muguruza’s star continues to soar with biggest career title

Garbine Muguruza beats Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets to win the WTA China Open title in Beijing

The tall, elegant and big-hitting Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza, has won the biggest title of her career, the prestigious Premier Mandatory in Beijing, just a week after falling short at the final hurdle at the lesser Premier tournament in Wuhan.

Having beaten the likes of Ana Ivanovic and Angelique Kerber, Muguruza was forced to retire during the Wuhan final against Venus Williams—the second loss to a Williams sister in as many 2015 finals. The young woman from Barcelona had thrilled tennis fans with her Grand Slam breakthrough at Wimbledon only to face, and fall to, Serena Williams on Championship day.

Hard to believe she would bounce back so quickly in Beijing to carve through the draw and into another final via two comebacks from a first-set deficit. This time, she faced the No12 seed, Timea Bacsinszky, rather than a Williams, and despite carrying heavy strapping to one thigh—and a tense and sluggish opening half hour—the No5 seed hit her calm stride to surge back from 2-5 down to take the first set, 7-5, with four breaks for serve to Bacsinszky’s three.

Come the second set, and Muguruza took up her favoured position inside the baseline to force growing errors from her opponent, and quickly bounced back from an opening break of serve to level at 2-2 and then break in the ninth to serve out the match, 6-4.

Not only is this Muguruza’s first Premier Mandatory title, it takes her to a career-high No4 in the rankings and just one point short of Maria Sharapova at No3. And after turning 22 years old a few days ago, she is the youngest woman to claim a title at this level or higher since Petra Kvitova won the WTA Finals in 2011. As it happens, Mugurza has already sealed her spot at this year’s Championships, ahead of Kvitova.

But let’s not forget her vanquished opponent, who little more than two years ago had suffered so many injuries that she left tennis to begin a new career.

Now Bacsinszky celebrates a career-high ranking to break the top 10 for the first time. No wonder she had tears in her eyes as she gave her runners-up speech: “I actually want to dedicate this tournament to someone. I came from really, really far away, I almost retired two years ago, and this man over there, my coach, Dimitri, thank you for helping me every day. You brought Stanislas to the top 10, and now you’ve brought me to top 10. Thank you for every day.”

The day, though, belonged to the charming Muguruza, whose climb up the tennis honours board continues apace.

She did not win her first WTA match until Miami in 2012—though she made an immediate impression with a run to Round 4.

The next year, she won her first Grand Slam match at Roland Garros and backed it up with a Round 2 run at Wimbledon as well—before missing the rest of 2013 with an ankle injury.

When she returned at the start of 2014, it was with a bang in Hobart to win her first title, via qualifying and a total of eight matches. The Florianapolis final came soon after, then her first Major quarter-final at the French Open. She would end the season with a semi finish at the Tournament of Champions.

And while it has taken Muguruza most of 2015 to claim her first title—though it could not be a bigger one outside the Majors—she broke into the top 20 in February and the top 10 with her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon.

After her run in Beijing, she has not only become one of the first to claim a spot for the WTA Finals in Singapore but is now biting at the heels of No3 in the rankings.

Muguruza has proved hugely popular in Bejing, just as she has wherever she plays—for her attacking brand of tennis but also for her serene bearing and her winning personality.

She said to the assembled crowds: “For me, to be able to come and win the tournament after losing in the finals of Wuhan last week is a great achievement. It’s amazing, and I can’t wait to come back and defend my title next year.”

Who knows where Muguruza will be in rankings by then, but she has shown, thus far, all the makings of future No1, and maybe even a Grand Slam champion.

Road to Singapore: 10 players compete for last five places

Remaining tournaments
W/b 11 October: Linz, Tianjin, Hong Kong—all Internationals
W/b 19 October: Moscow Premier, Luxembourg International

Qualified
1 Simona Halep
2 Maria Sharapova
3 Garbine Muguruza

Next in line:
Petra Kvitova (assured of alternate place as a minimum)
Angelique Kerber (assured of alternate place as a minimum)
Agnieszka Radwanska
Lucie Safarova
Flavia Pennetta

Still in the running:
Timea Bacsinszky
Belinda Bencic,
Karolina Pliskova
Carla Suarez Navarro
Venus Williams

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