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.
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