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Singapore Rivalries: Muguruza and Ostapenko

The opening day of the WTA Finals brings together the 2017 Wimbledon and French Open champions in a resumption of a rivalry that culminated in an epic battle in Wuhan.

 

Every time Jelena Ostapenko starts her backswing is a moment of tension and jeopardy, as the Latvian has the explosive power in her forehand - as well as the fearless nature - to blast holes in any opponent's ambitions. But, then again, so does Garbiñe Muguruza, who is more than capable - physically, technically, psychologically - of ripping winners through the court all day.

Put this year's French Open and Wimbledon champions on opposite sides of the net and you won't get moonballs or half-measures. Expect the spectacular and prepare for the unpredictable. Ostapenko and Muguruza have already played twice this season, with a win apiece, and with both matches featuring a great turnaround in fortunes, and making you think this could be the beginning of an entertaining, long-running rivalry between two young players who are likely to be among the elite for many years.

There is something gloriously uninhibited about the way Ostapenko smacks a tennis ball; she goes all out. That ultra-attacking approach brought her a first Grand Slam at the French Open, where, ranked No.47, she was the first unseeded women's champion since 1933, and it also saw her recover from a set down, as well as a break down in the final set, when playing Muguruza in the quarterfinals of last month's Wuhan Open. Perhaps in the opening set, Ostapenko hadn't been true to herself, and hadn't been as aggressive as she could have been, but in the second and third sets she swung hard at every opportunity and half-opportunity and finished with 29 winners.

Muguruza against Ostapenko in Wuhan (Getty)

Ostapenko's 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory was particularly significant because of Muguruza's ranking at the time: "I just beat the No.1 for the first time and it's amazing."

"I think she played very aggressively," Muguruza said after that hard-court match. "In the right moments she picked some good shots and went for it."

In May this year, they played on the red clay in Rome and, on that occasion, it was Muguruza's power game which prevailed, with the Spaniard dropping a set before winning in three. Just like in China, the scoreline gives a good indication of what a turnaround it was, with Muguruza winning 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Befitting the dynamic, scene-stealing approach of these two, there were fireworks and helicopters in the sky that night, though that might have had something to do with the Coppa Italia final that was being played at the nearby Stadio Olimpico.

It's worth noting, though, that that match came shortly before Ostapenko's breakthrough at the French Open; becoming a Grand Slam champion would galvanise the 20-year-old, showing her that hitting the ball extremely hard is the best way for her to disrupt the sport.

Their only other meeting was in Rome in 2016, which was of a more straightforward nature, with Muguruza winning 6-1, 6-4. But expect any future meetings between Ostapenko and Muguruza to have more of a narrative arc.

 

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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.




 

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