HIGHLIGHTS: Muguruza defeats Kontaveit during round-robin stage

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Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Anett Kontaveit

When the US Open ended two months ago, it would have been hard to imagine that Muguruza and Kontaveit would be the last women standing in 2021. Muguruza had exited, bitterly, to Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round; Kontaveit had lost in three to Iga Swiatek in the third round. At the time, Muguruza seemed to be slowly fading after a strong start to 2021, while the 28th-ranked Kontaveit probably never dreamed she would qualify for the Finals, let alone reach the championship match. But tennis seasons are long, and both of these women have made big strides since leaving New York. Kontaveit won a title in Ostrava—and then another in Moscow, and then another in Romania. Muguruza won a title in Chicago, but she has saved her best for Guadalajara. Urged on by the big crowds, she has recovered her early-season confidence and aggression this week.

Muguruza moved ahead 3-2 in their head-to-head with her round-robin victory last Sunday.

Muguruza moved ahead 3-2 in their head-to-head with her round-robin victory last Sunday.

That confidence and aggression have already taken Muguruza to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kontaveit in a round-robin match in Guadalajara. She leads their head-to-head 3-2, but Kontaveit won their previous match, last month in Moscow, 6-1, 6-1. The question now is who, or what, do you trust more: Kontaveit’s long run of good play, or Muguruza’s more recent renaissance? Historically, Muguruza’s game has had the higher upside; she’s a two-time Grand Slam champion, while Kontaveit, at 25, has made just one major quarterfinal, at the Australian Open in 2020. Muguruza is also the bigger hitter, and has looked assured in her attack this week. That means the pressure will be on Muguruza to make things happen against the steadier Kontaveit.

Once Muguruza has built momentum at a big event, she can finish the job; she showed that at Roland Garros in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017. She can also come up just short, as she did at the Australian Open in 2020. This time she should have the crowd helping to push her across the finish line. Winner: Muguruza