Garbine Muguruza captured one of the biggest titles of her career with victory over Anett Konatveit at the season-ending WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
Muguruza beat the vastly-improved Kontaveit 6-3 7-5 to earn the prestigious title, eclipsed only by her trophies from Roland Garros 2016 and Wimbledon 2017.
The Spaniard will return to world No.3 in next week’s rankings after winning three titles in 2021 -- the most she has ever won in a single season.
Barely anybody had beaten Kontaveit since August; the Estonian had won 29 of her past 32 matches entering the final, winning four titles in that span to improve her ranking from 30th to eighth.
But after ending Kontaveit’s 12-match, 16-set winning streak in the WTA Finals group stages, Muguruza repeated the feat in the final to complete a dream week in Mexico.
As a Spaniard with Latin American heritage -- her mother is Venezuelan, and Muguruza was born in Caracas -- Muguruza enjoyed enormous crowd support in Guadalajara, and elevated her game accordingly.
"I remember when (WTA CEO) Steve (Simon) and I were at the US Open and he told me that Guadalajara could be a possibility for the Finals, then was I was like, oh my God, I have to make it! And look, now we're here," smiled Muguruza, who now owns 10 career titles after winning Dubai and Chicago earlier in 2021.
"For me it was just a dream come true to play here, thank you."
For the majority of the match it was Muguruza who controlled the tempo while Kontaveit’s game frequently suffered from errors.
The Spaniard broke for an early 2-1 lead, and despite a forgettable fourth game in which she missed two swinging volleys to hand the break straight back, she broke again for a 4-3 lead, and consolidated that break with an ace for 5-3.
She then sealed the opening set with a majestic backhand lob winner, and held serve to love in the opening game of the second, a down-the-line backhand winner earning her a fifth game in a row.
Kontaveit, with residual confidence from her dazzling recent results, worked her way back into the contest, breaking a wobbly Muguruza in the seventh game and holding serve in the next to extend her lead to 5-3.
Muguruza then raised her level, belting another backhand winner to hold for 4-5, and breaking Kontaveit as the Estonian served for the set.
Muguruza rattled through the final four games of the match as errors returned to Kontaveit’s ground game.
"You've beaten me twice this tournament -- that's just too good," said Kontaveit, who finished with 39 unforced errors to Muguruza’s 25.
"I felt so welcome here (in Guadalajara) and I've just had the best time, and I'm so proud to be competing at this level.
"The support this week has been incredible, the crowd has been incredible. And thank you everybody in Estonia, who woke up at 3.30am to watch my matches (laughter). Their support means so much."
Muguruza and Kontaveit will depart for some well-earned rest in the off-season before turning their attention to Australian Open 2022.
Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park in 2020, will be especially motivated after failing to get beyond the last 16 at any of this year's four majors.
The closest she came was at AO 2021, where she twice stood just one point from the quarterfinals before Naomi Osaka -- the eventual champion -- staged a memorable comeback.