Garbine Muguruza hammered out her WTA Finals threat in no uncertain terms on Monday as she celebrated her rise to world No.3 with a straight-sets dismissal of Lucie Safarova.
The imposing Spaniard, playing her debut match at the season finale, quickly shook off her nerves to win 6-3 7-6 (7-4) and extend a run of form which has taken her to two straight finals.
In Monday’s other White Group round-robin match, Germany’s Angelique Kerber beat ailing 2011 champion Petra Kvitova 6-2 7-6 (7-3) as she also made a winning start in Singapore.
Muguruza turned 22 at this month’s China Open, where she won her second career title, and has soared to a career-high third in the world in the latest rankings released on Monday.
And second-seeded Muguruza, the player of the moment on the women’s tour, made no bones about her ambitions to rise further to world number one — and stay there.
“I don’t know how far I can get in the ranking, but definitely I’m trying to, you know, be there, top, and not only to arrive, to try to stay there,” she said.
“I always had it in my mind that I could be up there… step by step I’m trying to be there,” Muguruza added.
The result was also sweet revenge for Muguruza, after she lost to Safarova in this year’s French Open quarter-finals, before going on to finish runner-up at Wimbledon.
Muguruza scored two breaks in the first set and recovered from an early break of her own service in the second to get it back on serve at 3-3.
Ninth-ranked Safarova, 28, fought off four break points to make it 4-4 before the set went to a tie-break — which Muguruza won handily to wrap it up in just under two hours.
Both were Grand Slam runners-up this year to Serena Williams: Muguruza at Wimbledon and Safarova at Roland Garros, where she beat the Spaniard in straight sets in the last eight.
“In Roland Garros she played an amazing match. I think today I played a very good match also,” Muguruza said.
“I just wanted so much to win. I was fighting and you know, just very concentrated,” she added.
In the later match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Kerber, 27, won a battle of the lefties with Safarova’s Czech compatriot Kvitova, 25.
Kerber rolled over a distracted-looking Kvitova, the world number five who has struggled this year with glandular fever, to win the first set 6-2.
The Czech regrouped and used deft net play to put up a strong challenge in the second set, with both scoring three breaks each in furious cross-court exchanges to reach 6-6.
But world No.7 Kerber prevailed 7-3 in the tie break.