It is day seven of the Monterrey Open tomorrow and we have the final taking place as top seed Garbine Muguruza does battle with fourth seed and former champion Timea Babos. The favourite to get through this match is Muguruza by quite a heavy margin, which is rather surprising considering the quality of opponent that Babos is.
So far this season, Garbine Muguruza has not lived up to expectations as she has been hampered by injury early on and has not been able to get a consistent run of good results. She came to the Australian Open without perfect preparation as she was unable to complete her two warm-up events due to injury and that showed as she went down in the second round to Su-Wei Hsieh. She managed to have some rest time and then got her best result of the season so far at the Qatar Total Open where she made the final with wins over Sorana Cirstea and Caroline Garcia before falling to Petra Kvitova. She managed to carry that good form into the Dubai Tennis Championships as she made the semifinals with a win over Caroline Garcia before falling to Daria Kasatkina but they have been her only real standout events so far. That is apparent in her results from the Sunshine Double which saw her fall in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open to Sachia Vickery and the fourth round of the Miami Open to eventual champion Sloane Stephens. It has been a very good week so far for Muguruza as she hasn’t dropped a set in her four matches with a 6-1, 6-1 first round win over Renata Zarazua, a 6-2, 6-3 second-round win over Alison Riske, a 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinals win over Ajla Tomljanovic and then yesterday a 6-0, 7-5 win over Ana Bogdan in the semifinals. It has been an up-and-down year so far because she has had some good runs but underperformed at other events. She failed to build on a first-round upset at the Australian Open as she went out to Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round but then just two weeks later, she captured the champions trophy at the Taipei Open with a week that saw her get wins over Arina Rodionova, Kateryna Kozlova and Magda Linette. Her next couple of events weren’t as good as she fell in the first round of the Qatar Total Open to Elise Mertens and then the second round of the Hungarian Ladies Open to Mona Barthel. Her sunshine double was not very successful either but that is predominately due to tough draws as she fell in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open to Belinda Bencic and then the second round of the Miami Open to Jelena Ostapenko. It has not been the easier progression through this draw for Babos as she has been forced to three sets twice, first in her second round with Naomi Broady before she got through 6-3, 6-7(6-8), 7-5 and then again in the semifinals with Sachia Vickery before she got through 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. I have to give the edge in terms of confidence to Muguruza because even though both women have been inconsistent, the Spaniard has got bigger results at bigger events.
Garbine Muguruza has played this event twice before but not for a number of years and she never enjoyed much success at this event. She made her debut in 2012 when she was just eighteen and she fell in the qualifying first round to Tatjana Maria. She returned two years later in 2014 and she failed again to win a match despite gaining direct entry into the main draw as Donna Vekic got the better of her in the first round. Timea Babos has a lot more experience at this event with this being her eighth year playing in Monterrey with the average result from her past seven appearances being the quarterfinals so she has done well here in the past. Her best result came in 2012 when she went on a run to the first WTA title of her career with wins Alexandra Cadantu, Sorana Cirstea and Sara Errani. Her worst result was just the year before that on her debut in 2011 when she was just seventeen and fell in the first round of qualifying to Aleksandra Wozniak. The edge in terms of how comfortable the women feel on the court has to go to Babos because not only does she have more experience, but she has better results.
Head to Head Record
Garbine Muguruza and Timea Babos have met four times on the WTA tour and, rather surprisingly, it has been fairly one-sided with Muguruza owning the dominant 4-0 win-loss record with their matches coming on a mix of hard and clay courts. Their first match on a hard court came at the 2016 Qatar Total Open and fourth seed Muguruza took that one 6-2, 7-5 in the third round. I would imagine this scoreline but reversed because normally with two big-hitters, they start toe-to-toe before one of them breaks away but what I suspect happened here was Babos started with many errors and was not able to tighten her game until the latter part of the match when Muguruza was too strong. The last time they played on a clay court was in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix when third seed Muguruza got the 6-2, 6-2 win. I would expect this result on a clay court because so many of Babos’ weapons are neutralised in terms of trying to win the point early while Muguruza has more of a game that can play on the dirt better with her skills to extend a rally. Their most recent meeting was also in 2016, this time at the Western and Southern Open when fourth seed Muguruza took out qualifier Timea Babos 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. This can be a typical scoreline for Muguruza as the starts of the set are competitive but she can turn up the gears when she needs to play well in the clutch moments. It is fairly easy to see that Muguruza has the advantage in this matchup because they have similar game styles and not only is Muguruza better in terms of talent, but she is more versatile.
I think this match will be closer than some of the past meetings because I think that Timea Babos has improved as a player over the past couple of years and I also think that she will be more intense for a final. I think that Babos will come out really focused and motivated to get off to a good start due to some of her lack of success in the past against the Spaniard and I do think that will happen. Garbine Muguruza has been a little bit slow out of the gates in the first couple of games in some of her matches this week so if Babos is able to break early then and hold serve she has a good shot at taking the opener. I think that Babos will take the early break and Muguruza will never get her teeth stuck into the set as the fourth seed will take it 6-2. I think that Muguruza will be rudely awakened after dropping the set and she will come out ready to play in the second set as Babos might have a slight drop in intensity. I see Muguruza getting out to an early lead and as she gains more and more of a lead, Babos might see the set as a lost cause and Muguruza will take 6-0. I think the start of the decider will be a tense affair with both women fully focused and playing good tennis. I think that ultimately it will come right down to the wire after both women remain rock-solid on serve despite still having to fight for their holds but Muguruza will hold her nerve better than Babos and end up taking the trophy with the 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 win.