2016 WTA Finals player profile: Garbiñe Muguruza

It was a great year for Garbiñe Muguruza who reached a career high ranking at number two and won her first Grand Slam title, however, the Spaniard hasn't been able to fulfill all the expectations coming into this year's WTA Finals.

2016 WTA Finals player profile: Garbiñe Muguruza
Garbiñe Muguruza won her first Grand Slam at the French Open after defeating Serena Williams in straight sets. Photo: Getty Images  / Julian Finney

It was a year full of ups and downs for Garbiñe Muguruza, as she started the year with an injury and then her early results were early exits. Her big break came at the clay season when she conquered her first Grand Slam title at the French Open. However, the rest of the season hasn’t lived up to the expectation she generated at Roland Garros; losing early in the two remaining Grand Slams and not being able to reach another final. But nonetheless, she is now one of the eight players to qualify   to the WTA Finals.

Notable results to date

Garbiñe Muguruza reached the clay season with a shaky start of the year after getting early defeats in the first months of the 2016 season and fighting some injuries on the way. Her first big tournament result happened in Rome where she made it to the semifinal. Despite losing to Madison Keys, this was the start of what would be an amazing clay season for the Spaniard. Coming into the second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open, Muguruza was considered a big threat as the Spaniard’s results in Roland Garros had been great in the past years, reaching the quarterfinals in the last two years.

Muguruza struggled in her opening match, raising many questions about her game and if she was going to be able to defend her quarterfinal points. However, the Spaniard improved her game as the tournament moved on. Muguruza not only reached the quarterfinals, but she also booked her first French Open semifinal after defeating Shelby Rogers. In her semifinal match, Muguruza defeated former French Open finalist, Samantha Stosur. In the final, she would have her toughest opponent so far, Serena Williams.

This would be the second time these players would meet in the final of Grand Slam, after last year’s Wimbledon final. The American wanted to win this title, especially after losing the Australian Open final against Angelique Kerber earlier this year, while Muguruza was on the quest to get her first Grand Slam title and the Spaniard already had the experience of defeating Williams in that very same venue. In the end, it was Muguruza who won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open after defeating Williams, 7-5, 6-4.

Garbiñe Muguruza defeated Serena Williams in order to win her first French Open title. Photo: Getty Images/Dennis Grombkowski
Garbiñe Muguruza defeated Serena Williams in order to win her first French Open title. Photo: Getty Images/Dennis Grombkowski

Winning this title also resulted in a new career high ranking as the new world number two. Following her great triumph, Muguruza struggled during the grass season, losing in early rounds during Wimbledon and Mallorca. In the Olympic Games, Muguruza couldn’t defeat the eventual champion, Monica Puig.

The hard court season arrived and Muguruza began with a semifinal in Cincinnati but fell to Karolina Pliskova who would later win the title. In the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, she was expecting to get a better result but lost in the second round to Anastasija Sevastova.

Garbiñe Muguruza during her match against Anastasija Sevastova at the US Open. Photo: Getty Images/Alex Goodlett
Garbiñe Muguruza during her match against Anastasija Sevastova at the US Open. Photo: Getty Images/Alex Goodlett

Best results leading to the WTA Finals

Heading to the last part of the year, Muguruza’s performance is still raising a lot of questions as the Spaniard still can’t find her game. She then had her best result since Cincinnati when she reached quarterfinals in Tokyo, but lost to Elina Svitolina in three sets. Then she moved to Wuhan but lost in her opening match to a much stronger Jelena Jankovic. In Beijing, her performance was not any better than in the last tournaments. She lost in the third round to Petra Kvitova. Her last tournament prior the WTA Finals was in Linz where she retired against Viktorija Golubic after she twisted her ankle midway through the final set.

Best WTA Finals result

Muguruza made her debut in the WTA Finals last year and had a very successful run at the tournament, reaching the semifinals. Muguruza won all her ties during Round Robin action, defeating Lucie Safarova, Angelique Kerber, and Petra Kvitova. In the semifinals, however, she couldn’t defeat the eventual champion, Agnieszka Radwanska.

Garbiñe Muguruza serves at the 2015 WTA Finals. Photo: Getty Images
Garbiñe Muguruza serves at the 2015 WTA Finals. Photo: Getty Images

How Muguruza’s game translate to this surface

There’s no doubt that Garbiñe Muguruza’s best surface is clay and her playing style is tailored to that surface. The Spaniard has claimed that hard court is her favorite surface, however, the tournaments will be indoor. Muguruza is a powerful player, especially from the baseline as she uses her groundstrokes to dictate the points. This is a great weapon on hard courts as the Spaniard will be able to complicate her opponent's game by putting the ball out of her reach or throw her off.  

One of Muguruza’s strengths is that she’s an offensive player which will help her during this tournament as she will anticipate the attack of her opponent instead of waiting to defend. Another point to her favor is her explosive serve as she is capable of reaching speeds of up to 113 mph. Because of her aggressive style of play, the Spaniard has a tendency of making a lot of unforced errors which lead her to lose crucial points, this is also something that happens with her serve as she can make several double faults.

Head to Head against the other seven players

Garbiñe Muguruza has a positive head to head against Angelique Kerber as she leads 4-3. The Spaniard dominated Kerber in 2015 as she won all four of their meetings. The last one being last year at the WTA Finals where Muguruza won in straight sets. Muguruza also holds a favorable head to head against Agnieszka Radwanska, also leading 4-3. Last year, it was Radwanska who ruined her chances of reaching the WTA Finals in a grueling three-set battle.

Against Simona Halep, Muguruza is up 2-1. Their last meeting was last year in Stuttgart where the Romanian left with the win in a three sets match. Her first negative record comes against Karolina Pliskova, who will make her WTA Finals debut this year. Muguruza hasn’t defeated the Czech since 2013. Their last match happened this year in Cincinnati where Pliskova won and reached the final after a 6-1, 6-3 win over the Spaniard.

Her record against Madison Keys isn’t any better as the American leads 2-0. This year was her latest meeting at Rome where Keys defeated Muguruza in the semifinals. She leads 3-0 against Dominika Cibulkova, her last win over the Slovak happened this year at Miami in a three-set battle.

Still to be confirmed whether the last player will be Johanna Konta or Svetlana Kuznetsova. Against the British player, she is down 1-2, their last meeting happened last year at the US Open where Konta prevailed in a tough three set match. If the eighth player is the Russian, Muguruza is tied with her at 1-1. Muguruza won their last encounter this year at the French Open.