“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.”
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.