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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Garbine Muguruza less focused on No 1 ranking as she prepares for Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Spaniard arrives in emirate keen to improve on her 2015 showing here, rather than figuring out how to return to top spot

Garbine Muguruza's best performance in Dubai is reaching the semi-finals of the tournament in 2015. Ibraheem Al Omari / Reuters
Garbine Muguruza's best performance in Dubai is reaching the semi-finals of the tournament in 2015. Ibraheem Al Omari / Reuters

For 27 days last year Garbine Muguruza was on top of the mountain.

A run to the quarter-finals at the US Open last September was enough to make her world No 1 in the WTA rankings for the first time in her career.

It would prove to be a fleeting spell. Simona Halep usurped her from the position four weeks later but it has given the Spaniard, now at No 3 behind Caroline Wozniacki and Halep, a hunger to repeat the achievement this year.

“I always have it in my mind, you know, to be able to fight for that," Muguruza, 24, said ahead of the start of her WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships campaign where she takes on Catherine Bellis in the second round on Wednesday. "I remember it was a great feeling to be there, even though it's tough. But I want to fight for that.”

The two-time major champion said that while reclaiming top spot was important, it would not be the centre of her focus in 2018.

“You know, last year I was kind of more aware of that,” she said. “This year I'm trying to be a little bit less because I know already since last year. Now with the type of game and the players, it's going to be a lot of movement, I feel. I don't want to be thinking every tournament what are the options for this and for that.

“And also because I already was No 1 last year, it's less dramatic. I always know there's a chance. That's fine for me.”

Garbine Muguruza was briefly world No 1 during last year's US Open. Mike Segar / Reuters
Garbine Muguruza was briefly world No 1 during last year's US Open. Mike Segar / Reuters

The world No 1 ranking has changed hands eight times in the past 13 months and Muguruza believes that is the epitome of the competitiveness displayed at the top of women’s game.

“I think last year already we have seen people that unexpectedly ended up winning,” she said. “That gave a lot of vision to all of us, saying, If she did it, I can do it. It's not only the same three players that are winning. It's a little bit more open now.”

Muguruza arrives in Dubai in good form having reached the Doha final on Sunday where she lost to Petra Kvitova. Her best run in Dubai was in her debut at the event in 2015 when she reached the semi-finals before losing to Karolina Pliskova.

“The first year was my best year,” she said as she prepares for her fourth attempt at winning the Dubai title. “I remember I lost the semi-finals. I have good memories.

“I think it is a very nice tournament. It's very easy. We are like in a resort. The courts are different from Doha, but they're good. So hopefully I can do better.”

Muguruza goes up against Bellis, 18, on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals after the American got the better of Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3 in Tuesday’s first match on Centre Court.

“I've never played her before. It's definitely going to be a new experience for me. It will be fun," world No 41 Bellis said of facing Muguruza.

“She's an unbelievable player. She's been at the top of the game for a while now. It will be great for me just to see where my game lines up against another one of the top players.”

Bellis reached the last eight in Dubai 12 months ago and she is encouraged by her good form in the UAE again.

“I was really happy about the win,” she said. “I think I played pretty well. Just tried to be as solid as I could, tried to extend the points as long as possible.”

Catherine Bellis beat Elise Mertens to set up a meeting with Garbine Muguruza. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Catherine Bellis beat Elise Mertens to set up a meeting with Garbine Muguruza. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

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