By CARLOS RODRIGUEZ
AP Sports Writer
GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AP) — Garbiñe Muguruza´s trip to Mexico started last week drinking tequila. After winning the WTA Finals on Wednesday, it will end in the same way.
The 28-year-old Spaniard beat Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 to win WTA Finals title for the first time in her career and improve her record playing in Mexico to 14 wins and two losses.
Before the tournament started, Muguruza took a 37-mile (60 kilometer) ride to Tequila, a small town outside of Guadalajara where the popular spirit is produced.
“I went to the town, did a tasting. I knew, I knew. I need to do this before because when I win…” said Muguruza. “We’re (now) going to have some tequila, have fun, lose all the tension we’ve been having and holding. I think the whole team deserves it.”
Muguruza, who won back-to-back titles in Monterrey in northern Mexico in 2018 and 2019, became the first Spaniard to win the women´s season-ending tournament.
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario was a runner-up two times, the last time in 1993.
Her past successes in Mexico motivated Muguruza to play in the finals. In the ceremony after winning the title she recalled telling WTA´s CEO Steve Simon at the U.S. Open that she wanted to play again south of the Rio Grande.
“To qualify, the whole year with my team I was saying to them, ´it’s in Mexico, we have to make it, c’mon´. It was my biggest motivation,” Muguruza said.
The former No. 1-ranked Muguruza, who was a semifinalist of the WTA Finals in 2015, also became the oldest champion since Serena Williams won it in 2014 and will finish the season at No. 3 in the rankings, her best performance since 2017.
Muguruza was backed the whole week by a raucous crowd who gathered at Estadio Akron to cheer and clap for her as if she was one of their own.
“It’s funny, the other day I was speaking with my manager, Oliver. He was like, You know what, for the first time, Garbiñe, you’re really using the crowd, really getting that energy and using it on the court. You should do that more often”, said Muguruza, who entered the Estadio Akron wearing a Mexico soccer team jersey for her last two matches.
“I think a big lesson to me is I should get the energy from the environment. I’m very supported here in Mexico. I don’t know if it will be everywhere, but I used it this week for sure.”
Despite the loss, Kontaveit, who moved from No. 30 in the rankings into the top 10 in the last few months, is projected to finish at No. 7 in the rankings.
The 25-year-old Estonian finished the season with a 29-4 record in her last 33 matches, including her title run at Ostrava. Prior to that stretch she had a 19-13 record for the year.
Muguruza took control early in the match with three breaks against an erratic Kontaveit, who played better in the second and got a break in the ninth, but the Spaniard broke the Estonian´s next two serves to win it.
Earlier, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova defeated Hsie Su-wei and Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-4 to win the WTA Finals doubles title undefeated.
Krejcikova and Siniakova won titles at Roland Garros and Madrid, and the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It’s really amazing. This week was really good for us. I think we needed to stay aggressive, and we did it,” said Siniakova, who finished the season No. 1 in the doubles rankings. “I’m just really happy that we have the trophy.”
The WTA Finals were played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return in 2022 to Shenzhen, China.
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