“It was meant to be,” said Conchita Martinez with a grin from ear to ear after Garbine Muguruza claimed a stunning straight-sets win over Venus Williams to capture the Wimbledon title.
Martinez, who was the only Spanish woman to win a Wimbledon singles title prior to Saturday, was coaching Muguruza this fortnight in the absence of French coach Sam Sumyk, who had to be with his pregnant wife.
It had been 23 years since Martinez’s historic win over nine-time champion Martina Navratilova here at the All England Club. The parallels between Martinez’s triumph and Muguruza’s are undeniable.
In 1994, Martinez was 22, and facing a 37-year-old Navratilova who was already a legend at Wimbledon. Muguruza, 23, faced a 37-year-old Williams on Saturday, trying to stop her from winning a sixth title at SW19.
To make things eerier, Martinez had defeated Navratilova on clay in Rome the same year she claimed that famous Wimbledon win over the Czech-born American. Muguruza beat Williams in Rome two months ago.
“In my mind there were too many coincidences… I believe in those things,” admitted Martinez on Saturday after Muguruza triumphed over Williams.
“It was funny to go through the whole tournament and to live different things like that. But I didn’t realise that she beat Venus (in Rome) until two or three days ago, and I was like ‘oh my God, now wait, we’re going to do this!’ It was meant to be.”
Martinez and Muguruza didn’t develop their relationship overnight. Martinez is both Spain’s Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain, which means she deals with the Spanish players frequently, and appears on tour from time to time to support them and monitor their form.
Their dream fortnight in south-west London though is all the more special because they are now the only two Spanish women to lift a Wimbledon singles trophy.
“This is awesome, this is great. Last time I think it was 23 years ago for a (Spanish) woman, and it was me, but she’s got the game to win it more times so hopefully she’ll do it,” said Martinez.
Only four Spaniards in total have won singles at the All England Club with Manolo Santana succeeding in 1966, Rafael Nadal winning in 2008 and 2010, Martinez in 1994 and now Muguruza in 2017.
It is a small, exclusive club, but one that Santana is proud to have inaugurated.
“I think it’s very good for Spanish tennis. In one way or another I started the whole thing 51 years ago and little by little Spanish tennis is doing very well here,” Santana told Sport360 on Saturday.
“Not only is Garbine the new champion, but she played unbelievable today. To beat Venus you have to play great tennis and she did that.”
Muguruza came to Wimbledon having just lost her opener in Eastbourne 6-1, 6-0 to Barbora Strycova. It was hardly the best omen for her but Martinez was there to boost her self-belief.
“We talked a lot, I tried to build her confidence a lot. Talking a lot, working hard, the first two, three days, we put some hours there. We tried to clean some shots, tried to do the work you need to be ready to play Wimbledon,” said Martinez.
“She was all ears, she was very open and very positive throughout the whole tournament so that’s why she did it.”
The 45-year-old said she had a good feeling about Muguruza’s chances this fortnight, and that feeling was validated when she saw her come through a tough three-setter against last year’s runner-up Angelique Kerber in the fourth round.
“The whole two weeks I think she played every point of every single match, she didn’t give up once,” added Martinez.
She admits she felt more nervous coaching Muguruza, then going for the title herself as a player over two decades ago, but is “proud” she got to be a part of her success.
The question on everyone’s minds will be whether Muguruza can find some consistency in her game after capturing a second major. She struggled with that after winning her first in Paris last year and doesn’t have much success on the WTA tour.
Does Martinez believe Muguruza can finally translate her Grand Slam form onto the regular tour?
“I hope so. I think it’s worth doing it. You can win big things but also the other tournaments are very important for your career so hopefully that’s going to sink in and she’s going to do that every tournament,” she replied.
“She’s going to have more experience, after a year she won another Grand Slam, she had ups and downs but she already has a couple in her pocket, another final, so yeah hopefully she can stay a little more steady. The key is to continue to work hard and to focus in every tournament you play, that’s very important.”