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'It's a special feeling', Monterrey champion, Muguruza reflects on first title in a year

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 8 Apr 2019
  • Garbine Muguruza retained her Monterrey title when Victoria Azarenka retired hurt from Sunday's final
  • Muguruza had not won any titles since her 2018 Monterrey success
  • First time Muguruza has defended a WTA title
Garbine Muguruza

Former world No. 1, Garbine Muguruza ended a year-long title drought by retaining the Abierto GNP Seguros title in Monterrey on Sunday, taking the title after fellow former No. 1, Victoria Azarenka retired hurt in the final.

Muguruza led 6-1 3-1 before Azarenka decided she could not continue because of a leg injury.

This is the first time Muguruza is successfully defending a WTA title, with the Spaniard moving up to seven tour-level titles following her victory in Monterrey.

"Every title is sweet," Muguruza said. "The ending was a little strange, [Azarenka] was injured, but it's a special feeling, winning last year and now this year." 
"I did have tough opponents, this year's draw was the best; and, well, I played my best tennis."

Muguruza's title run included victories over Elena-Gabriela Ruse, Margarita Gasparyan, Kristina Mladenovic and Magdalena Rybarikova before she closed it out against Azarenka on Sunday. She dropped only one set all through only tournament- against Gasparyan in the second round.

Sunday's final against Azarenka had the makings of a tight affair, given the way both ladies had been playing. Azarenka had taken out four-time Monterrey champion, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and former No. 1, Angelique Kerber in the previous rounds, and had also edged out Muguruza 7-6 7-6 in their only previous meeting in Miami in 2016. 

Despite the lopsidedness of the scoreline, the match was actually quite competitive in the first set, with six of the seven games producing break points. However, Muguruza played the big points better, saving six of six break points, and converting three of the eight opportunities she created on Azarenka's serve.

Azarenka received medical attention on her leg after the first set, and it soon became clear that she was struggling to move- a very vital part of her game. 

The Belarusian saved a break point in her opening service game, but she dropped her serve when she next stepped on to the line, after which she conceded defeat.

Despite the loss, it was still a very encouraging week for the Azarenka, who advanced to her first final since the 2016 Miami Open- her first singles final since the birth of her child in December 2016. Azarenka moves up seven spots to 60th in the latest world rankings.

Muguruza remains at 19th on the rankings, but her success should restore some form and confidence as she heads into the clay-court season- a period of the year which has been very productive in recent years. 

The 25-year-old reached No. 1 in the world in 2017- the year she won Wimbledon- but she has struggled to reproduce that sort of form on a consistent basis since then, and has consequently dropped off in the rankings. She began last season as the No. 2 player in the world, but finished in 18th after failing to defend the points she had accrued from the previous campaign.

Muguruza played well in small patches last season- she claimed just the one title at the WTA International tournament in Monterrey, made a final at the Premier-5 tournament in Doha, and reached a fine semi-final at Roland Garros, but there were far too many early exits, and she was particularly hurt by poor performances at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, where she was defending champion.

Her start to 2019 had been average, with quarter finals at Indian Wells and Hua Hin, and a fourth round at the Australian Open- can this Monterrey success kick-start her season as she seeks the form that took her to No. 1 in the world?

Muguruza might have dropped off over the last season and a half, and she has appeared to struggle for confidence at times, but she has definitely got the game to compete at the very top of the tour, as she has shown with her two Grand Slam titles. 

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"It's a special feeling", Monterrey champion, Muguruza reflects on first title in a year

Garbine Muguruza retained her Monterrey title after Victoria Azarenka retired hurt from the Sunday's final

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