Badosa hoping to ‘mirror’ Muguruza in Mexico

The WTA Finals have served up two stellar semi-finals, including a Spanish duel between Paula Badosa and Garbine Muguruza.

Paula Badosa RG 2021©Loïc Wacziak / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

As a former world No.1 and winner of two Grand Slams, it’s understandable that Garbiñe Muguruza has been an inspiration for a multitude of Hispanic players.

Over at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, the Roland-Garros 2016 champion headlines a scintillating semi-finals line-up, where she’ll come up against Paula Badosa.

The fellow Spaniard has incrementally built her career-best season, recently capturing a maiden Masters trophy at Indian Wells to propel into the Top 10.

Two compatriots, two explosive talents, this is not to be missed.

"She is a player who has always been a mirror in which to look at myself,” stated Badosa. “She broke all the stereotypes. Such a dynamic and aggressive game was not common in Spanish tennis.

“She is tall, different, my favourite. She has a game that I loved when I was growing up. I have always said that I would like to go where she has arrived. I am getting closer to her level and it’s an honour to have two Spanish women here.”

Composure and mentality the key components

It will be the first professional meeting for Muguruza and Badosa. On one side, the experience and know-how of Muguruza, whereas Badosa is riding the wave of 2021 confidence. 

At the start of the current campaign, the 24-year had no WTA titles in the trophy cabinet and was without a Top 10 triumph to her name. That tally has changed drastically in 2021, with two titles and an impressive haul of six Top 10 victories. 

Until Badosa lost to Iga Swiatek on Friday night (having already booked a semi-final ticket in Guadalajara), the world No.10 had chalked up eight straight wins. Six to lift the Indian Wells trophy and two in Mexico.

Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova, Angelique Kerber, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka were all swatted aside in California. Straight sets and top seed Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari were dismissed in Guadalajara.

The ability has always been there, but it’s now the belief to stand tall on the baseline and go toe-to-toe with the marquee names. 

“Few years ago, mentally I was a typical player,” Badosa admitted. “‘Oh, she can play good, but mentally she's so far away. She needs to improve a lot on that.’ I listened to that a lot.

“Now I think I'm maybe one of the best ones, or that's what I try. Of course, I improved on my tennis and physically. That's tough. But I think the toughest part to improve is on the mental game.”

Muguruza feeling at home

Badosa will need to harness all her recent form and belief to topple Muguruza. The 28-year-old has overcome defeat in a thrilling round-robin opener to Karolina Pliskova to beat Krejcikova, then ending Anett Kontaveit’s 13-match winning streak to reach the final four.

The atmosphere has been a carnival in the stands and that’s an understatement. Muguruza receiving ardent Hispanic support and relishing the roars of approval after every winning shot. The world No.5 is at her best with momentum and playing with a smile etched on her face – both factors are blossoming in Mexico. 

"The Latin America environment, air, people, crowd, everything," explained Muguruza, a 2015 doubles finalist in the season finale. 

"I love it here. I feel so home and welcome. People are very good with me. I guess that shows in my tennis. It is very special for me. 

“This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to play the Finals here. I'm very, extremely motivated, I would say."

Sakkari vs Kontaveit set for 2021 round five

Sakkari escaped the round-robin stage with a pulsating 7-6(1), 6-7(6), 6-3 win over Sabalenka on Monday night, to replace the top seed in the semi-finals.

The Greek roared back from 1-3 in the decider to secure her seventh successive victory over a Top five talent. 

Sakkari, who shone at Roland-Garros 2021 en route to the semi-finals, has split her past four encounters with Kontaveit. The Estonian most recently claiming a 6-2, 7-5 scoreline in the Ostrava silverware showdown in late September. 

" I'm going to fight for it, do whatever I can to advance to the final. I just really want to enjoy tomorrow's match because the atmosphere here is just unreal,” said Sakkari. 

"I'm not going to have so much time to rest. My fitness level is, I believe, one of the best on tour, without being arrogant, but I believe fitness is one of my strengths. I'll do everything to recover. If Anett is better, it's too good. But I'll try to recover and just take advantage of the good things I felt today on the court."

Back in August Kontaveit was No.30 in the race to the WTA Finals. For the 25-year-old, the rise is very simple.

“I think it’s just really trusting my shots a little bit more, just going for it, but going for it with margins, stay aggressive and be in charge whenever possible,” added the Estonian. “When it’s not possible, just stay in the rallies, be as consistent as possible.”