ZHUHAI, China - No.7 seed Garbiñe Muguruza was made to work in her first ever match in Zhuhai, needing over two hours to defeat Chinese wildcard Zhang Shuai at the 2018 Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The win puts Muguruza on top in the Camellia Group, which is rounded out by Anastasija Sevastova. Zhang will be back in action tomorrow against the Latvian as she seeks her first win in Zhuhai.
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“I didn't start very well, didn't find my rhythm,” Muguruza told press afterwards. “I was giving her a lot of free points. And she was playing very well since the beginning.
“After the first set, I thought it doesn't matter really now. I have another set. Doesn't matter how I felt. It was a good challenge to look for something more and try to change it, you know, to have the chance to win the match at the end.”
Muguruza, the only former Grand Slam champion in the field, came to Zhuhai to end her season on a high note after failing to recreate the success that had once seen her rise to WTA World No.1. She claimed just one title in 2018, at Monterrey, and reached the semifinals at the French Open - the only Grand Slam where she made it past the second round.
The Spaniard made a slow start against the home favorite Zhang, falling behind an early break at 2-0 as her opponent came out of the gate firing. That lone break proved to be decisive - Muguruza couldn’t find the answers to recover the lead as Zhang fought off two break chances to hold at 4-1 and keep her nose in front, serving out the opening set with ease.
But the two-time Grand Slam winner found another level in the second set, and piled on the pressure on Zhang. She created seven break chances across two marathon Zhang service games before her efforts were finally rewarded later at 4-2 with her first break of the match. Muguruza found another level to close out the set, leveling the score to send them into a decider.
This article is reprinted from WTA.
The final set was a tug-of-war battle as both players wrestled for the momentum, trading six breaks between the two of them. But it was Muguruza who came out on top, edging ahead after five straight breaks to grab a 4-2 lead. She served out the match to win after a hard-fought two hours and three minutes on court.
“We played four times, with this one actually, in two years, so it's quite a lot,” Muguruza said of her opponent. “I saw she played very well in the Asian Swing and I'm not surprised. I feel like every time I play with her, it's a big fight. It's never an easy match. Her intensity is very fast.
“I think she played very well today. Every time I see her in the draw. I know it's going to be a good match and good points because we're both aggressive players. It's a good match-up and it makes it interesting.”