Wuhan (China): French Open winner Garbine Muguruza said on Sunday that it was about time women's tennis had a "new face" at the top, after Angelique Kerber broke Serena Williams' 186-week dominance atop the rankings.
"I'm happy that we have a new face as world number one, not because I have a preference, but just because I think it's good sometimes," the current world number three told reporters in Wuhan, China.
Kerber became number one when Karolina Pliskova dispatched Williams in the semi-final of the US Open earlier this month. The German beat Pliskova in the final to claim her second slam of the year after victory at the Australian Open in January, where she beat Williams in the final.
Muguruza also defeated Williams to win her first Grand Slam title, at Roland Garros in June.
World number five Simona Halep also said that seeing Williams slip from the number one pedestal, which she had occupied since February 2013, had given players a confidence boost. "It's much easier to believe in yourself when you see that Serena is not there any more, winning every tournament, being number one in the world for years," said the 24-year-old.
Halep ended 2015 as world number two and now has renewed hope she can win her first Grand Slam title. "I feel that everything, it's open now. I feel that everyone has a chance to win a big tournament, to reach the number one," said the Romanian. "Everyone has a chance to reach the top if we believe. And we started to believe more, I think."
World number eight Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain agreed that Williams' slip had left the "door open" to other players. "A new change for tennis...because we know that we can have (the) door open to be there also. It's good. Serena is good, I think she's in another level. But from the last year and also this year, Serena is not the same," Navarro said.
Muguruza said that the key for Kerber has been her consistency, which many players on tour, including the Spaniard herself, struggle to match. "I think in woman's tennis, it's hard to find people that (are) always constant...most of the girls are very aggressive. Some days they play good, some days they play bad," said Muguruza.
"But I think Kerber is an example this year that she was very all the time there. Every tournament, she's in the last rounds. That's why she became number one," she added.
Muguruza lost in the third round at the Olympics to gold medallist Monica Puig. She also had an early exit — in the second round — at the US Open. But the Spaniard enjoys a strong record in China, winning in Beijing last year and reaching the final at Wuhan only to hand Venus Williams the crown when an ankle injury forced her to retire mid-match.
"I don't really know the secret. I just go out there and try to concentrate and (stay) calm because sometimes its hard," she added. Muguruza, Halep and Navarro all have first round byes at Wuhan and are not scheduled to play until Tuesday.