Garbine Muguruza aims for the number one spot
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is happy to be back at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where in 2015 she reached the semi-finals but last year was forced to retire with an injury in her opening match.
She enjoyed four weeks as the number one player late in 2017, and one of her goals this year is to regain the top spot.
“It is important,” she said when she met with the assembled media on Tuesday. “I always have it in my mind, you know, to be able to fight for that. I remember it was a great feeling to be there, even though it’s tough. But I want to fight for that. I know it’s the hardest one, but I’m going to be there, try to.”
When you reign at the top of the rankings you feel greater pressure, rather than relief, as you become a target for everyone else.
“When you’re number one you feel like every tournament you play, you kind of almost have to win it, you have to always maintain a super high level to everyone you play because everybody’s playing, you know, like super relaxed, nothing to lose. You feel a lot of pressure. You realise a lot of things when you’re there. You’re like, okay, I’m here, I can’t go more up, all I can do is go down. There’s all these girls that want my spot, I have to defend it. You have this, like, alarm all the time.
Even though she has won both the French Open and Wimbledon, competing in Dubai is very important to her. As she has become more experienced she has come to appreciate that the life of a player revolves around much more than the Grand Slams and she has to perform well all the time.
“When you’re younger, you’re always dreaming about winning Grand Slams,” she said. “You don’t feel that excited, you know, when it’s not Wimbledon. But it’s normal. Every player has that. Once you are in a Grand Slam, you’re like, ‘Okay, this is history’. But I learned with the years that all the WTA events are important. We have huge tournaments. Is the key also to be in the top spots because you need to perform constantly good, constantly moving forward in the big tournaments.”
In Tuesday afternoon matches, Qiang Wang was given a place in the main draw as a lucky loser after failing to survive the qualifying rounds, and responded by overwhelming Kiki Bertens 6-3 6-0 in just 55 minutes to set up a second round meeting with top seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina.
There was victory too for wild card Catherine Bellis, who followed up victories last week over US Open finalist Madison Keys and former world number one Karolina Pliskova by beating Elise Mertens 6-3 6-3. Her next opponent is second seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.
“We are thrilled that Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is with us again,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Her taste of being the world number one has made her hungry to regain the top spot, and she appreciates that victory here will play a large part in her realising that ambition. We wish her and all those bidding for the title a successful and enjoyable week.”
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, “Two players who were not able to earn places in the main draw now find themselves meeting the two top seeds in our defending champion and the Wimbledon winner in the second round. That is just part of the magic of an event that not only features six of the top 10 but many other talented individuals.”
The WTA event continues until 24th February and features six of the world’s top 10, with Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, 2016 US Open finalist and former world number one Karolina Pliskova, and in-form Caroline Garcia all competing.