BEIJING • World No. 5 Garbine Muguruza won her opening match at the China Open yesterday to get within one win of qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Taking on Irina Falconi, Muguruza, who enjoyed a first-round bye, found herself locked at 2-2 after more than half an hour on court.
But the fifth-seeded Spaniard completely pulled away from there, reeling off eight games in a row to build a 6-2, 4-0 lead. And a few games later she closed the American qualifier out 6-2, 6-1.
"I'm very happy," Muguruza said. "I tried to keep the level I had in Wuhan (where she reached the final and retired during the match) and also in Tokyo. It was hard, because I didn't play for two days, and here the conditions are not the same, so I'm happy."
She is now through to the third round, where she will face Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
If she reaches the quarter-finals of the Premier Mandatory-level event, she will qualify for the WTA Finals for the first time in singles.
She will also become the first Spaniard since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 2001 to feature in the prestigious season-ender.
"Is it true?" she said, when told at her post-match press conference that she was within touching distance of booking a berth in Singapore.
"I didn't know that. I knew obviously if I did a great tournament here, I would qualify for the WTA Finals. But I didn't know which round it was.
"I think for sure that's a very good motivation now, to finally go there and be one of the top players."
World No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska also moved into the quarter-finals yesterday but will need to regain the title she won here in 2011 to make the elite eight-woman line-up in Singapore.
The Pole - currently 12th on the Road to Singapore leader board - won the first set against Madison Keys 6-3, before the American retired with a thigh injury.