Garbine Muguruza shrug

‘Never experienced anything like this’ – WTA Finals held in difficult conditions

With the WTA Finals being held in Mexico, Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka have explained the difficulty with the conditions.

The WTA Finals were originally set to be held in Shenzhen, China in 2020 but were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s strict travel restrictions. The tournament was then moved to Guadalajara, Mexico for 2021.

Guadalajara sits 1,500 metres above sea level and the high altitude makes the air thinner. Multiple WTA Finalists have found the conditions difficult to acclimatise to and have said it is hard to control their shots.

The group draw for the WTA Finals was made earlier this week, and the draw sees top seed Aryna Sabalenka, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek, Maria Sakkari and Paula Badosa form the Chichen Itza group.

Whilst second seed Barbora Krejcikova, third seed and World number four Karolina Pliskova, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza and the in-form Anett Kontaveit face each other in the Teotihuacán group.

Some players arrived a few days prior to the tournament in order to try and get used to the challenging conditions. Since all finalists this year are European, the Mexican climate could take some adjusting to.

Venezuela-born two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza has played in Mexico before, but has claimed that she has never played in such conditions.

“I have not experienced anything like this before, this altitude. I’ve definitely played well in Mexico in other conditions.

“[I’m] just struggling to get used to conditions because I’ve never experienced anything like that, just controlling the ball and playing and getting used to tennis in this altitude, I feel like it’s hard. But I feel like it’s hard for everybody.”

Compatriot and World number ten Paula Badosa also arrived early and echoed Muguruza’s qualms.

Meanwhile, World number six Maria Sakkari, who is enjoying a career-best season on the WTA tour, feels she will not play her best tennis and believes that minimising mistakes will be vital.

“We knew that there is 1,500m altitude here. We knew we had to adjust. I personally know I might not play my best tennis but I have to accept it because sometimes it will feel weird.

“Sometimes you’ll make mistakes that you wouldn’t make in sea-level tournament,” Sakkari said.

Similarly, top seed and World number two Aryna Sabalenka was “shocked” at the conditions in her first practice session, but believes she is acclimatising the more she plays.

“First day I arrived here, I mean, I wasn’t surprised but I was shocked that I cannot control anything.

“I was playing around [with] the strings a little bit, found the perfect tension. I start practising. I think with every day I feel better and better.”

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.