Muguruza relishes chance to play in front of Dubai crowd

Garbine Muguruza smiles while talking to reporters in Dubai on Sunday. (Photo by Neeraj Murali)
Garbine Muguruza smiles while talking to reporters in Dubai on Sunday. (Photo by Neeraj Murali)

The two-time Grand Slam-winning Spaniard is back in Dubai, hoping to become only the fourth player in the tournament's history to defend the title



by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 13 Feb 2022, 7:27 PM

With the crowd back at full capacity, the silence during each point at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre will be punctuated by roars, grunts and applause when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships kick off on Valentine’s Day.

The Centre Court will turn into a battlefield where some of the most feisty competitors in the women’s game will go toe to toe for victory.

Greek star Maria Sakkari, the world number seven, may have pulled out on Sunday, but the tournament still boasts some of the biggest names in the game.

And one such name is Garbine Muguruza.

The two-time Grand Slam-winning Spaniard is back in Dubai, hoping to become only the fourth player in the tournament’s history to defend the title.

Muguruza’s Dubai triumph came last year following a heartbreaking defeat to Petra Kvitova in the Doha final.

The Dubai victory, her first in two years, didn’t quite help Muguruza return to Grand Slam-winning form last year. But the former world number one did end the year on a high, claiming the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals title in Mexico.

“It meant a lot,” Muguruza said on Sunday as she looked back on her Dubai triumph.

“It was such a weird tournament. Coming last minute from Doha, playing so many matches in a row. I think it was one hell of an experience!”

Unlike last year when the tournament was played behind closed doors, the 28-year-old would not step onto an empty stadium this week.

“I’m so happy the crowd is back. It was so sad last year to step on the court and have empty stadium,” she said.

Muguruza is coming into the Dubai tournament on the back of a shock second-round exit at the Australian Open.

“Yeah, I was disappointed. It took a couple of days back home. I’m like, ‘Okay, how I’m going to shake things up? How I’m going to come back stronger?’ I mean, it’s always disappointing to lose in a Grand Slam that early. But I moved on. I’m here. This is a good tournament. It’s in the past already,” she said.

The Spaniard then opened up on the challenges ahead in Dubai.

“This is a big event. Everyone comes here to play. It’s a tricky surface also. The ball flies, it’s a fast court,” she said.

“I mean, I don’t have a favourite opponent to play. I think all of them are going to be tough. I do have experience, playing so many matches for so many years. But others do as well, so...”

Muguruza, who grew up with her two tennis ‘fanatic’ brothers, spent a lot of time in her childhood watching Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Now the rigours of professional tennis rarely allow her to watch tennis matches.

And yet she managed to watch the epic five-hour Australian Open final in which Rafael Nadal, 35, beat Daniil Medvedev of Russia to clinch his 21st Grand Slam title, pulling ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who remain tied on 20 majors each.

“Oh, my God, that match. It was a forever match. I don’t get to see that many matches whether it’s time, training or schedule. This one I got to see. I think he really showed his essence in that match. I feel like we’ve all known him not only because he’s great, but because he’s resilient,” Muguruza said of her legendary compatriot.

“I think that was a perfect example that he’s the best at coming back and fighting and staying there. It was amazing.”


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