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Magnificent Muguruza wins maiden Dubai Open title

The No.9 seed Garbine Muguruza ended a nearly two-year title drought by clinching a maiden Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships crown with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 victory over Barbora Krejcikova on Saturday.

She also became the first Spanish woman to win the title in the 21 years of the WTA event in Dubai.

The Spaniard took two-hour and eight-minute to beat Krejcikova at the Centre Court. Overall, this marks Muguruza’s eighth career WTA singles title, which includes two Grand Slam titles at 2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Wimbledon.

Former world No.1 Muguruza’s last title came at Monterrey in April of 2019; since then, she had reached the 2020 Australian Open final and two more finals already this season (including last week at the Qatar Total Open), but could not crack into the winner’s circle.

“It’s a great achievement. I’ve been coming here for many years in a row and I felt like I was close, but not enough, and today finally I got the champion’s trophy.  I’m very happy after losing a few finals in a row, to get this one,” said the 27-year-old Muguruza. It paid off this week. The other weeks I was close. Today I fought harder and I’m very happy about it.”

The two-time major champion now owns a tour-leading 18 match-wins in 2021. It is the former world number one’s biggest title since Cincinnati in 2017.

“I feel like the consistency on tour is so hard to get. Being able to play three finals (this year) is a great sign that we are on the right way,” said Muguruza, who was runner-up in Doha last week.

A netted forehand from Muguruza handed Krejcikova, lowest ranked finalist in Dubai since 2009,  a break of serve in the opening game but the Spaniard retaliated immediately to draw level.

An aggressive return saw Muguruza break for a 4-2 lead but Krejcikova utilised her fluid backhand to peg her back. Krejcikova dug deep to fend off three set points on her own serve and force a tiebreak. Muguruza trailed 3-5 in the breaker and saved a set point at 5-6 before she grabbed the 65-minute opening set on a wide forehand from her opponent. Krejcikova went off court for 11 minutes, delaying the start of the second set.

The 25-year-old blew a 40-0 lead to get broken upon resumption of play as Muguruza marched towards a 4-2 advantage.

She gave a huge sigh of relief when a Krejcikova forehand sailed long on Muguruza’s second match point.

The Spaniard has been competing in Doha and Dubai without her coach Conchita Martinez, who contracted Covid-19 and was forced into isolation.

“It was very challenging, more than people think, with so many things that happened in this Middle East swing but we stood strong and I’m very proud of my whole team,” said Muguruza.

“I want to dedicate this tournament especially to my physio, Adri (Adriana Fort). She worked so hard this week, to do everything, the coaching, the physio, the fitness training, I’m very proud of her work.

“And also to Conchi, my coach, she got the virus and she was so upset she couldn’t come, this one is for her.”

Krejcikova has enjoyed great success in doubles, reaching the number ranking and claiming two women’s doubles Grand Slam trophies, as well as three in mixed doubles.

Her surge in singles can be traced back to last fall when she made the fourth round at Roland Garros before reaching the semi-finals in Linz.

The Czech world number 63 claimed the first top-20 win of her career in singles earlier this season at the Grampians Trophy in Melbourne.  She will now rise to a career-high 36 in the world in singles courtesy of her exploits in Dubai.

Meanwhile, in the doubles final, No.8 seeds Alexa Guarachi and Darija Jurak breezed to the title, defeating Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan, 6-0, 6-3 in just 53 minutes.

Guarachi and Jurak won over 70 percent of returning points in the championship match, as they completed their week with only one of their five matches going into a match-tiebreak (against No.3 seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs in the quarterfinals).

It is the first team title for Guarachi and Jurak, who in fact fell to Melichar and Schuurs in the first round at Doha last week.

Guarachi, who reached the Roland Garros final last year alongside regular partner Desirae Krawczyk, picked up her 4th career WTA doubles title, and her second of the season (also Adelaide with Krawczyk).

It is a 7th career WTA doubles title for Jurak, and her first since she triumphed alongside Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez at the Bronx in the summer of 2019.

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