GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AP) — Karolina Pliskova overcame a slow start before beating Garbiñe Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) on Wednesday in her opening match at the WTA Finals.
In a contest between two former No. 1-ranked players, the third-seeded Pliskova struggled early adjusting to the nearly 5,000-feet altitude of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.
“The first set was not the best from me. The serve was amazing in the second set, many free points on the first serve,” Pliskova said. “Then it was a fighting third set. I thought I just had too many chances, didn’t make it really, but happy it went my way in the end.”
Pliskova is playing the WTA Finals for the fifth time, having reached the semifinals in 2018 and ’19. The 2020 tournament was canceled.
She didn’t win any titles in 2021 but kept a high ranking by reaching the finals at Wimbledon and Montreal, and the semifinals at Cincinnati.
Pliskova now has a 9-2 record against former Wimbledon and French Open champion Muguruza, who won the Chicago and Dubai titles this year and is making her fourth appearance at the season-ending event.
“That was a very tough match for both of us. It was a one-point difference — I saved many match points and is a tough loss I fought as hard as I could,” Muguruza said. “I´m happy with my fighting spirit even though I lost.”
Muguruza dropped serve before winning four straight games to take a 4-2 lead and eventually clinched the first set in 38 minutes.
Pliskova settled down in the second and got service breaks in the second and eighth games to level the match.
The third set lasted more than an hour, with Muguruza saving three match points to force a tiebreaker, and another in the tiebreaker before Pliskova sealed the win.
Earlier, Anett Kontaveit extended her hot streak to 11 consecutive victories with a 6-3, 6-4 win over second-seeded Barbora Krejcikova.
Kontaveit has won 27 of her last 29 matches, which include her title run at Ostrava where she beat Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari, both of whom are competing here.
“I’ve been in sort of top 30 for a lot of years,” Kontaveit said. “During the summer I was on a bit of a losing streak, then I started working with Dmitry (Tursunov) and was really hoping to get a few wins. I managed to win Cleveland, then it just sort of started rolling from there”.
Tursunov a former world No. 20, started working with Kontaveit at the Cincinnati Masters, where the 25-year-old Estonian lost in the first round. Since then, Kontaveit has soared from No. 30 into the top 10. After top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia opted not to defend the title because of travel restrictions in her country, Kontaveit edged out Ons Jabeur for the last spot in the season-ending championship by beating Simona Halep in the final of the Transylvania Open.
“I’ve been believing in myself a little bit more, and the game definitely has clicked from just getting more wins and playing a lot of tennis and really feeling comfortable,” Kontaveit said.
Krejcikova, the French Open champion, started the year ranked 65th but captured three titles to qualify for the WTA Finals.
“It’s just difficult because a couple days ago I was actually playing in Europe, now I’m here,” Krejcikova said. “It’s really, really, really difficult.”
The tournament, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is played in a round-robin format.
The WTA Finals are being played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return to Shenzhen, China in 2022.