Adjusting to the thin air of Guadalajara has been a struggle for players in the leadup to the WTA Finals, with the high-altitude conditions making it difficult for them to catch their breath and control their shots.
The women’s season-ending championships start later on Wednesday after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the 2021 edition moved to Mexico from Shenzhen because of travel restrictions in China.
Guadalajara sits about 1,500 metres above sea level and the thin air has made it difficult to control the ball for the finalists, who arrived at the venue days ahead of the event in a bid to acclimatise.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza said she had played in Mexico before but never in such conditions.
“I have not experienced anything like this before, this altitude,” the Spaniard told reporters. “I’ve definitely played well in Mexico in other conditions.
“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 Paula Badosa said she arrived a few days earlier but it was still difficult to adapt, while Greek Maria Sakkari said minimizing mistakes would be key.
“We knew that there is 1,500m altitude here. We knew we had to adjust,” Sakkari said. “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.”
Top seed Aryna Sabalenka was in “shock” when she first practised but the world number two was confident she was getting better as she spent more time on the courts.
“First day I arrived here, I mean, I wasn’t surprised but I was shocked that I cannot control anything,” she said.
“I was playing around the strings a little bit, found the perfect tension. I start practising. I think with every day I feel better and better.”
The WTA Finals are played between the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world during the season.