Garbine Muguruza walked away from Roland Garros last month in tears but six weeks later, she strutted off Wimbledon Centre Court a crowned champion.
Muguruza cried during her post-defeat press conference in Paris, almost like she was releasing all the built-up tension she felt throughout the 12 months in which she was the French Open title holder.
She left the interview room at Roland Garros to collect herself after erupting in tears, and returned with a defiant look on her face, ready to look forward. It’s almost like she knew she’d win a second Grand Slam a few weeks later.
“It was an emotional moment. I read a lot of headlines saying ‘Garbine breaks down’ and stuff like that and I’m like ‘I’m not breaking down’, it’s just something human,” Muguruza explained following her Wimbledon triumph on Sunday.
“I felt pressure out there and I lost, I felt that I did a good tournament even though I didn’t reach that far. But I was like ‘I’m going to learn from this’, just turn the page, I have a whole grass-court season coming, I feel good, forget about the French Open, next year I’m going to go out there and try to do it better.”
She certainly did turn the page.
The Venezuela-born Spaniard was a force of nature during the fortnight at Wimbledon, and one thing that stood out the most is that she never panicked, even when she was down.
She rallied back from a set down to defeat top-seeded Angelique Kerber in the fourth round. Against Venus Williams in the final, she saved two set points in the 10th game – one with a brutal long rally – then held and never lost another game.
Great meeting the Dukes of Cambridge today the Club.— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) July 16, 2017
Feliz de conocer a los Diques de Cambridge. pic.twitter.com/NZRkKqr8RM
“It seems like a lot of things should go through my mind (on those set points), right? But in fact I was like, ‘I was expecting that, I was ready to face difficult situations’. I was ready to be 5-1 up, 5-1 down, set points, because I had Venus in front of me and I know she’s a good player. I was not worried. I’m like, if I lose this set I have two more, but if I stick here I might turn it around and that’s what I did, just played the ball,” said the 23-year-old.
It’s no secret that Muguruza struggles with consistency, particularly after pulling off a big achievement. Her form dropped off after reaching her first Wimbledon final in 2015, and a similar dip took place after she won the 2016 French Open.
Does she feel she is now better equipped to avoid such a scenario?
“I would like to. People think that when you win it’s so easy, and it’s not easy also to handle it and probably I expect myself to play always so good and when it doesn’t happen it’s hard to deal with,” she admits.
“But I think the best way is to be humble, go back to the court, start even in the hard court season now and keep working and things will come. But not thinking that I’m going to play incredible every tournament.”
Does it get harder to love the sport when she is struggling to put together wins on the regular tour?
“I think a lot of people have this love-hate relation (with tennis) because it’s hard in the defeat, it’s very nice when you win, so it’s a combination and I also felt like that. When you win everything is beautiful, when you lose everything is darker, you’ve got to turn things around so it’s hard,” she says.
Muguruza has stated several times her admiration for Serena Williams – the winner of 23 Grand Slam titles. Serena dominated the sport for the past several years and plans on returning next year after she delivers her baby. Does Muguruza other dream about dominating the tour the way Serena did, rather than just up her level for the Slams?
“I don’t think anyone is going to dominate so long and so much like Serena, because it’s incredible. But I just want to go out there in the Grand Slams, the tournaments, and perform well, hopefully win the trophy. It’s simple but that’s my goal and that’s how I see it for now,” she replied.
When Garbine Muguruza is on, there is literally no one who could stop her – not even the Williams sisters.
Her straight-sets rout of Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final on Saturday and her triumph over Serena Williams in the French Open title match last year are testament to that.
She’s the only player to have defeated both Venus and Serena in Grand Slam finals and she is only 23 years old. Just imagine what she can do by the time she’s 28?
She is powerful, takes the ball early, imposes herself on the opposition, and mixes it all with a certain champion-like swagger. She doesn’t shy away from the big stage, she embraces it.
She’d rather face a Serena or a Venus in a Slam final than any other player who is theoretically more beatable.
Muguruza has all the makings to become tennis’ next big superstar but there’s a catch.
The Spaniard’s flashes of brilliance tend to appear once every 12 months. In between, she struggles with pressure, motivation, and inconsistency.
Just a few days before this Wimbledon, Muguruza had lost 6-1, 6-0 to Barbora Strycova in her Eastbourne opener.
A mere 17 days later Muguruza stands on Centre Court as the new Wimbledon champion. It is a contrast that is difficult to explain but also very intriguing.
How can a player who owns two Grand Slam titles only have four trophies in total?
Up until now, Muguruza’s true motivation has been the majors and she has found it hard to turn up for the smaller tournaments.
She’s not the only one who is that way. But in a women’s game that has witnessed the dominance of Serena, or a season like that of Angelique Kerber’s 2016, or a Caroline Wozniacki who was world No1 by winning tournaments week-in, week-out, you wonder when Muguruza will start getting fired up for a Premier-level event the same way she does for a major?
“We cannot reduce our sport to four tournaments per year,” Rafael Nadal argued after he captured his 15th Grand Slam trophy in Paris last month.
It’s something Muguruza should seriously start thinking about, now that she’s reminded us of her excellence.
There are encouraging signs that the letdown she had after winning the French Open last year might not return post-Wimbledon.
Throughout the 12-month period in which she was reigning French Open champion, Muguruza was weighed down by pressure. She admitted she was almost relieved when she left Roland Garros after her fourth round defeat to Kristina Mladenovic last month. She was finally liberated.
During that press conference in Paris after her loss, Muguruza cried.
She had to leave the room to compose herself then returned with a defiant look on her face, and answered every question thrown her way. She knew it was time to face the music, and she did it like a true champion.
That moment stuck with me because it was very revealing.
It allowed us to peek into her soul for a second there, and watch her navigate through difficult emotions, release all the pressure that had built up inside her over the previous 12 months, and choose to show us that she’s tough and can stand up to whatever comes her way.
It felt that moment was the beginning of a new chapter for her. It has led her to a second Grand Slam title less than six weeks later.
The next few months will be key for Muguruza.
She looks to be way more serene than in the past, and her demeanour this entire fortnight at Wimbledon has been a positive and focused one.
If Conchita Martinez, who was coaching her here in the absence of her French coach Sam Sumyk, had anything to do with how calm Muguruza has been, then the Spaniard may want to consider having her around more often rather than this being a one-time thing.
Even better if Muguruza can learn to find that inner peace without depending on anyone else. Because if she does, the sky really is the limit for her.
Twelve months on from Roger Federer’s battling five-set triumph over Marin Cilic in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the pair will once again step on Centre Court as foes, but this time in the final, with the winner walking away with the coveted trophy.
Federer was down two-sets-to-love against Cilic here last year, and saved three match points before he completed a remarkable comeback to advance to the semis.
The previous time they had met was when Cilic swept past Federer in three sets at the 2014 US Open en route to claiming his sole Grand Slam title to date.
On Sunday, the duo will face off for an eighth time in their careers, with Federer leading the match-up 6-1 head-to-head. It will be their fourth meeting in a Grand slam.
Here’s a closer look at the numbers and figures behind this showdown.
– If Federer wins the title, he’ll rise from No5 to No3 in the world rankings.
– Federer is bidding to become the first man in history to win eight Wimbledon titles. He would become just the second man in history to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event, behind Rafael Nadal who has 10 Roland Garros trophies.
– Federer is 18-10 win-loss in Grand Slam finals. Cilic is 1-0.
– Federer is contesting a record 11th Wimbledon final. He’s the first man in the Open Era to reach 10 or more singles finals at the tournament.
– Federer is bidding for a tour-leading fifth title of 2017. Cilic is going for his second of the year.
– At 35 years 342 days, Federer is looking to become the oldest man in the Open Era to win the Wimbledon title.
– Federer is bidding to win a second Grand Slam title after turning 35. Ken Rosewall is the only other man to have won major titles after his 35th birthday in the Open Era.
– If Federer wins, it will mark the fifth time that Federer and Nadal have split the opening three Grand Slams of the year between them – but it will be the first time it has happened since 2010.
– It’s been five years since Federer last won Wimbledon. If he wins on Sunday, it will be the second-longest wait between men’s singles titles at Wimbledon in the Open Era. Jimmy Connors waited eight years between his first and second Wimbledon titles in 1974 and 1982.
– Of all his 18 Grand Slam titles, the Australian Open 2007 is the only time Federer won a major without dropping a set. If he beats Cilic in straight sets, this Wimbledon will be his second time winning a Slam without dropping a set.
– Federer is bidding to win his 19th Grand Slam title and join Helen Wills Moody in joint-fourth place on the all-time list for most Slam singles titles – men and women.
– Federer is contesting his 102nd match at Wimbledon on Sunday, tying Connors’ record for most matches played at Wimbledon in the Open Era.
– If Cilic wins the title, he’ll overtake Federer as the new world No5, and crack the top five for the first time in his career.
– Cilic is looking to become the first player to win the Wimbledon title on his debut in the final here since Novak Djokovic won his first Wimbledon crown in 2011.
– Cilic has a tour-leading 12 match wins on grass this season against just two losses. Federer is 11-1.
– Cilic is bidding to become the second Croatian player – man or woman – to win the Wimbledon title after Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.
– Cilic is bidding to become the first Croatian player – man or woman – to win multiple Grand Slam titles. Ivanisevic and Iva Majoli are the only other Croatians to have won a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.
– Cilic is looking to become the first player outside of the ‘Big Four’ (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray) to win Wimbledon since 2002, when Lleyton Hewitt won the title here.
– Cilic has lost 11 of his last 12 matches against top-five opposition at the Grand Slams. The one exception was his win over Federer at the 2014 US Open semis.