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Muguruza reveling in No. 1 status ahead of Pan Pacific Open

by Shintaro Kano

Kyodo

Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza on Monday did not hold back her joy at becoming world No. 1 in women’s tennis.

The 23-year-old last week topped the WTA rankings for the first time, becoming the second woman from Spain to achieve the feat, after four-time Grand Slam winner Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1995.

Between Muguruza, in town for the Pan Pacific Open which started Monday, and men’s No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Spain tops both the WTA and ATP rankings at the same time. It is the first country to do since the United States owned both top spots 14 years ago.

While she tried not to get carried away, Muguruza struggled to suppress her smile about being the 24th woman ever to hold the top spot.

“I feel of course super happy because it’s the goal of every tennis player to be No. 1,” last season’s French Open champion said at Ariake Coliseum. “I’m happy to be in Tokyo again holding this new number and I’m looking forward to keeping it as long as I can.

“When you’re top three, you’re thinking you’ve got a bronze, you’re in third position and very close because there’s only three left. When you get to two, you’re like, ‘I only have one more.’

“When you get to first, there’s nobody in front of me anymore. I’m in a very weird situation. It’s very temporary, the ranking in tennis. But it’s a great feeling.”

As the top seed at the Pan Pacific Open, Muguruza has a first-round bye and will face an opponent yet to be determined Tuesday. On Sunday night, she caught up with 46-year-old Kimiko Date, the former world No. 4 who retired last week after her first-round exit at the Japan Women’s Open.

Muguruza could only marvel and shake her head in disbelief at the longevity of Date’s career.

“I will never imagine myself — ever — playing at that age,” she said. “I think it was just too good that her body and her mind were able to go that long in her career.

“To stay healthy and at the same time have the motivation (for that long), I think it’s going to be a record. For me it’s just amazing.”

Muguruza is coming off a U.S. Open campaign in which she reached the round of 16 before losing to Petra Kvitova in straight sets. She arrived in Japan on Tuesday and is looking forward to regaining her winning touch at Ariake, the venue for the 2020 Olympics tennis competition — something Muguruza is also keen on.

“The Olympics is something very personal,” she said. “Depending on which culture or country you are from, it can mean a lot or is just an important event. For me, when I experienced my first Olympics in Rio, I didn’t know anything. I was very excited to go out there and it didn’t go that well for me but I loved the experience.

“And the fact that it’s going to be in Tokyo, I’m happy because I’ve played here so many times. I really like the arena, I look forward to the renovation. It’s more like a team, country competition. You’re not alone.”