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.
“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.”