Maturing Muguruza wins Wimbledon 2017


Before their Wimbledon final, Garbine Muguruza, 23, praised the experience and precision under pressure of her older rival, Venus Williams, 37.

But Muguruza was the more mature player on the day, saving two set points, measuring her aggression and winning nine straight games to capture her first Wimbledon title 7-5, 6-0. She made only one unforced error in the 26-minute second straight.

Muguruza told reporters in Spanish that she won’t change, even though many in the tennis world predict stardom for her.

Muguruza, from Venezuela and Spain, seemed destined to shine on the big stages. She had it all: a powerful game, a ferocious backhand and a big dimpled smile. She was studying English a few years ago in Barcelona while slamming more experienced opponents on the WTA tour.

She rose quickly. She lost the Wimbledon final in 2015 to Serena Williams then beat Serena to win the French Open in 2016. As she paraded through the media areas in Paris, she and her infectious smile seemed unstoppable.

But somehow, she stopped. She went into a funk, partly due to a controversial coaching situation with Sam Sumyk manifested in televised arguments on court. Despite her promise, she had only won three titles — Hobart, Beijing and Roland Garros — in comparison to the five Wimbledon titles of Venus Williams.

Yet Muguruza was the more composed and focussed competitor on Saturday, and it was Venus who collapsed after failing to convert two break points at 4-5 in a fierce first set.

Muguruza said everything came together for her this time, in terms of health, fitness and confidence. “I was very composed,” said Muguruza. “In every match I feel nervous. I think it’s a good thing. But when I go to a big court, I feel good. That’s where I want to be. That’s what I practice for. I play good.”

“She just dug in and played better,” said Venus. “She hit some great passing shots that opened up the gap more, gave her more opportunities. I went for some big shots and they didn’t land.”

Muguruza often overpowered Venus with a hard flat backhands that often resembled Venus’ stroke. Muguruza nailed 71 percent of her first serves and made only 11 errors compared with 25 by Venus, who also double-faulted five times.

Muguruza said she forgot about all the hype around Venus trying to win at age 37. “We want new faces.”

She also had advice from her team of Sam Sumyk (not in London) and Conchita Martinez, a Spaniard who upset Martina Navratilova in the 1994 Wimbledon final. “I was talking with him (Sumyk) everyday. I just spoke with him now before (the presser). No matter’s who in the box, I’m the same player. I’d like Conchita to be in my team. It’s a great combination.”

Muguruza said she overcame the troubles she had defending her 2016 title at Roland Garros. “It’s not easy. It’s very good when you win it but hard to come back and defend it. But it’s a good problem to have. I’m happy to be in this situation.”

Muguruza told journalists how she grew up watching men’s and women’s tennis with her brothers. “The Williams sisters were a big thing. It’s great to play somebody that you admire.”

She also overcame her earlier aversion to grass. “In the beginning I was playing lobs over the fence. More Spanish style, more physical. Then I grew up a lot, my arms were longer. I had to adapt. I had to be more aggressive. I found my game going that way, more aggressive as a tall person, taking more chances. Grass works very well.”

She first played on a grass at age 16 or 17 in a Wimbledon qualifier. “It was rough at the beginning. I didn’t like grass. It took me a while to calm down and adapt to the surface. Once I reached this Wimbledon final (2015) everything changed for me. I told myself ‘Stop complaining. This grass surface suits you’.”

Muguruza says she will now have to find clothes that suit her, because she brought “nothing” to wear to the Wimbledon ball. Asked if she would rather dance with Roger Federer or Marin Cilic, she paused for a moment and flashed that delightful smile. “Roger.”

(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson all rights reserved)