Twenty three years ago, a 22-year-old Conchita Martinez upset a 37-year-old Martina Navratilova, to become the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon, denying her veteran opponent a 10th title at the All England Club.
On Saturday, Martinez watched her compatriot Garbine Muguruza defeat the 37-year-old five-time champion, Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 to claim her first Wimbledon crown and second Grand Slam trophy.
Muguruza paid tribute to Williams during the trophy ceremony, and talked about how it felt facing someone she watched on TV growing up. The crowd bizarrely laughed at such a statement, perhaps emphasising the 15-year age difference between the two competitors.
Muguruza later elaborated during her press conference saying: “When I knew I was playing Venus in the final, I was actually looking forward for it. You know, people were surprised when I said in French Open, that I had Serena in the final. No, I’m like, But that’s the final. A Wimbledon final with Serena and Venus… You know, she won five times, so she knows how to play.
“For me was a challenge to have her, growing up watching her play. Everybody start laughing. But, in fact, is something incredible. I was so excited to go out there and win, especially over somebody like a role model.”
In a high-quality final on Saturday, and in the presence of Spain’s former King Juan Carlos, Muguruza became her country’s second women’s Wimbledon champion and she did it with Martinez in her corner, coaching her in the absence of her regular coach Sam Sumyk.
“Congratulations, Garbine, amazing. I know how hard you work and I’m sure this means so much to you and your family, so well done today, beautiful,” said a gracious Williams after the final.
Two years ago, Muguruza had lost the Wimbledon final to Williams’ sister Serena, who is currently pregnant and away from the game.
Asked to send a message to her sister, Venus said: “I miss you, I tried my best to do the same things you do but I think there will be other opportunities, I do.”
The first break point of the match game in the sixth game on the Muguruza serve but Williams was unable to capitalise on her opportunity and the Spaniard held for 3-3.
Williams saved her first break point in the following game as both players refused to budge.
Serving to stay in the set at 4-5, Muguruza faced two break/set points. The pair traded blows in what was the rally of the match thus far, engaging in a thrilling forehand-to-forehand battle that went Muguruza’s way and the Spaniard eventually held for 5-5.
It was Muguruza’s turn to get chances to break and she fist-pumped her way to her bench when she out-rallied a powerful Williams to go ahead 6-5.
The No14 seed hit an unfathomable defensive lob that curled to the right before landed in the corner to get her hands on two set points. Williams saved the first but Muguruza took a one-set lead on her second opportunity after 51 minutes of high-intensity tennis.
The 23-year-old broke to open the second set and consolidated for a 2-0 advantage. Muguruza had found her range wasn’t letting up while Williams was caught at the net twice, with passing shots whizzing by her to face break point in game three. Muguruza went up a double-break moments later as a Williams volley sailed wide.
“Definitely she hit some great passing shots that definitely opened the gap up a lot more and gave her some more opportunities. Just credit to her for forcing the issue there,” said Williams later.
A 14th winner of the match from Muguruza saw her jump to a 5-0 lead. And after a correct challenge from the Spaniard that revealed a Williams ball was long, Muguruza sealed a historic victory, covering her face in disbelief before she raced to the net to hug her American opponent.
“I think it’s inside, of course I’m nervous, I always dreamed to be here, I was composed I guess,” Muguruza told Sue Barker on court.
Asked to send a message to her absent coach Sumyk, Muguruza lifted her trophy to the camera and said: “Here it is.”
Roger Federer got a little disappointed today when he found out it isn't the first time he's reached the Wimbledon final without dropping a set.
He had actually done it twice before - in 2006 and 2008.
"Twice before? You see, I don't know everything about my whole career. It would have been nice to make this the first one actually. I'm a little bit disappointed about that," the Swiss said, sounding only half-sarcastic.
Federer booked himself a spot in a record 11th Wimbledon final with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych and will be gunning for more history when he takes on Marin Cilic in the Sunday final.
"It makes me really happy, marking history here at Wimbledon. It's a big deal. I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. To have another chance to go for number eight now, be kind of so close now at this stage, is a great feeling," said the 18-time Grand Slam champion.
There was a moment during Garbine Muguruza’s swift demolition of Magdalena Rybarikova in the Wimbledon semi-finals on Thursday that stood out to me.
The Spaniard slammed a bullet of a down-the-line return winner that landed smack in the corner to break for 3-0 in the second set, then immediately walked to her bench, almost before the ball had touched the ground, and without once taking a glance at her opponent.
It’s like she had tunnel vision and was literally just playing the ball and not another human being across the net.
“I just wanna win, no matter who is in front of me,” she later said in a TV interview.
It often baffles me when a player says ‘I just focus on myself, irrespective of who I’m playing’. How? Tennis is so often a chess match, and tactics should be tailored based on specific opponents.
But when I listen to Muguruza talking about concentrating on her side of the net and executing to perfection, I realise how much that strategy is working for her.
She said she stepped onto the court against Rybarikova “super-confident” and it showed.
If you have that much belief in your own abilities, perhaps it’s true that nothing else matters.
“I could not do almost anything today,” said a helpless Rybarikova after the match.
“She didn’t give me much chance to do something.”
Muguruza will need to do the same against Venus Williams in the final on Saturday. Because the moment Muguruza realises she is facing a five-time Wimbledon champion who has also been progressing through the draw with so much confidence, maybe that is when the Spaniard will falter.
Muguruza lost to Serena Williams in the final here two years ago. She then beat the American in the French Open final last season. She hasn’t reached any final at any tournament since.
The 23-year-old says she’s both older and wiser now and will try to enjoy the experience of being in a Wimbledon final once again.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I think it’s a good moment right now. It goes very fast. So I’m trying to enjoy. The previous times, you know, you’re so concentrated that you cannot enjoy as well,” said Muguruza on Friday.
“I know tomorrow I’m looking forward a lot to go on the court. Last match here. Try to change things after the last two years. That’s it. Just trying to enjoy also.”
Having experienced both, the feeling of walking away a winner and the feeling of going home as the runner-up from a Grand Slam final, Muguruza knows it’s way more fun getting the bigger trophy.
“Definitely I want to win, for sure. Is very different to hold the trophy than to have – you know… I really felt when I achieved the final in 2015, and I won the French Open, I could feel the difference between winning a Grand Slam and not winning. I think it’s a huge difference. So I definitely want to be the one who takes the big one,” said the No14 seed.
Whether she wins or not on Saturday, Muguruza will once again be faced with a typical challenge for her: How can she step up for the smaller tournaments the way she does at the Slams? The fact that she only owns three titles in total, one of them being a Grand Slam remains a true mystery.
“I find it strange because she doesn’t have consistency so much. She can do some tournaments very well, and some tournaments she can be out very quickly. I don’t know why,” said Svetlana Kuznetsova, who lost to Muguruza in the quarter-finals here.
Maybe Muguruza doesn’t know why either, but it’s imperative for her to figure it out post-Wimbledon, because surely waiting another 12 months to get to another final is not a scenario she’d want to go through again.