By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Garbine Muguruza has been earmarked as a future star of women's tennis and after a breakthrough season that saw the Spaniard reach a maiden grand slam final, the 22-year-old is happy to take her steady ascent toward the top in her stride.
Two players in their 30's accounted for all four of the year's majors, with Serena Williams (34) bagging the first three before Flavia Pennetta (33) stormed to an unlikely U.S. Open win as the 'next generation' struggled to make an impact.
Eugenie Bouchard, Madison Keys and Belinda Bencic are among a promising batch of players blessed with the game that could take them to the top but Muguruza is emerging as the most likely prospect to taste grand slam success first after a stellar 2015.
After claiming a maiden WTA title in Hobart last year, Muguruza's brilliant run at Wimbledon was halted by Williams in the final, and the tall Spaniard claimed the China Open crown this month to climb to number four in the world rankings.
"I've learned a lot since Wimbledon but I think it's more people creating expectations because of the results," Muguruza told reporters in Singapore on Saturday, where she is competing in the elite eight-woman WTA Finals for the first time.
"But I'm trying to be calm, not to think a lot about this, keep doing the same. Hopefully, I can go out there and have a good match and go out of the court saying: 'Look, I played Singapore for the first time, I did my best.'
"If I lose it's okay but if I win, it will be amazing. But I am not trying to think about results here too much."
Fellow Singapore finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, who has lost her last four matches against Muguruza, predicted that the Spaniard had the potential to become world number one.
The Spaniard knows that while she has a long way to go to make that happen, it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
"I think I'm getting closer and closer and have the possibility to be there if I work hard," Muguruza added.
"I still have to do a lot of things, work and improve, but I think I'm heading in the right direction to make it happen."
Muguruza is also playing down her chances of winning a tournament that has been thrown wide open after a fatigued Williams withdrew.
"Well, I have earned my place here so I am definitely at this level but I don't regard myself as a favorite," said Muguruza.
"I have played really well this month and hopefully I can continue to do so, but I don't know. The first time, sometimes it's hard to deal with so let's just see what happens."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)