By Jane Voigt
Twenty-three year old Garbine Muguruza wanted to see her team, but Wimbledon ritual beckoned. She was shown the wall where all champions’ names were listed, her’s having been added minutes before her arrival.
The surname, Williams, had been etched nine times over the past 10 years on the Roll of Honour. Muguruza’s once. The Spaniard knew, at least a little by then, what she had done to disrupt the order at a major so steeped in tradition.
“I only played against the Williams’ sisters,” Muguruza told ESPN, referring to her 2015 loss to Serena and now her 2017 victory over elder sister, Venus Williams, 7-5, 6-0. “It’s the best match you can get.”
But it was not the best match for the sentimental and 5-time champion, Venus Williams. In defeat, though, she was graceful, poised and honest about her love and loss, probably the one she wanted more than all the other five.
“Congratulations, Garbine,” Venus told Sue Barker on court. “Amazing. I know how much this means to you and your family. Well done. Beautiful.”
Venus used the word beautiful a couple more times, once in a personal reference. Then when asked about Serena, who is home preparing for the arrival of her first child.
“A lot of beautiful moments in the last two weeks,” Venus said, smiling, when asked about her loss. And for Serena, “I miss you. I tried my best to do the same things you do. But I think that there’ll be other opportunities, I do.”
Venus stepped back then to allow Muguruza the spotlight, leaving us with the hint that she was not done at 37.
“I had the hardest match today,” Muguruza said. “I grew up watching her play, watching these finals. She’s an incredible player.”
Muguruza became only the second Spaniard to win Wimbledon in the Open Era, although she was born in Venezuela. The first? Conchita Martinez in 1994. She defeated Martina Navratilova that day, as the 37-year-old lefty serve-volley icon attempted her 10th Wimbledon crown. Over the last three weeks Martinez has stepped in to coach Muguruza because her main coach, Sam Sumyk, couldn’t be in attendance. The irony is blaring.
“She [Muguruza] said it was the first year she felt comfortable on grass,” Chris Evert said, calling the match for ESPN.
Back in the day when Martinez was ripping up the red-clay courts, she went so far to say ‘grass is for cows.’
“I’m the same player no matter who’s in the box,” Muguruza said later. “Great work with Sam. Great to have Conchita here with me.”
Muguruza called the Wiliams’ sisters role models, in her post-match press conference, again bringing attention to their accomplishments. But that will change. Soon younger women will challenge Muguruza in the slams, as she proved at this Wimbledon to be a big-match, big-tournament contender.
Over the course of the fortnight, Muguruza dropped only one set. That’s when she took out world number one and the number one Wimbledon seed, Angelique Kerber, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Because of the victory, Kerber lost her top ranking.
“I came very motivated here, I was increasing my level every match,” Muguruza said, as Tweeted by Ubitennis. “I played well. I didn’t want to lose this time.”
The six-foot champion made darn sure she didn’t lose, too. Her foot trounced the gas pedal at the end of the first set when the outcome of the match was up for grabs. The score was 5-4 and Venus held 2 set points. The longest rally of the match follow — 20 shots. Venus lost that point. Then Muguruza hit a serve ace, Venus mishit a forehand and Muguruza smacked a forehand down-the-line to hold, 5-games all.
She won every game after that. Nine in a row. Her forehand, which’d gone off early in the match clicked into over-drive. Her serve, although not full of pace, hit its targets. Her movement was sublime. That one game had feed Muguruza courage, confidence and a steely will to carry on to victory.
“I knew it was going to be a rough match,” Muguruza said with ESPN. “I was calm and waiting. I wanted to play and not be afraid of the experience.”
“She [Venus] never relaxed,” David Witt, Venus’s coach told Pam Shriver later. “After that 20-ball rally … that seemed to be the turning point. She didn’t seem to be with it after that. She obviously has to be upset, but we haven’t talked about the match yet. She’s playing to win slams.”
Witt said Muguruza got a lot of balls in play. “It seemed like an extra ball in every point.”
“Well, Venus was maybe sentimentally the crowd’s favorite,” Muguruza began. “But, it’s good to have new faces.”
To emphasize how well Muguruza played, you have to look at her results over the seven rounds. She dropped only 44 games, lost one set and didn’t get broken in the last 8 sets of the tournament.
Venus Williams’ played Wimbledon for the first time in 1997; she lost in the first round. Three years later she won her first Venus Rosewater Dish. Muguruza’s inaugural appearance at Wimbledon was in 2013. Four years later she, too, won her first Venus Rosewater Dish.
On Sunday night, after the men’s singles final has been scripted, Muguruza will attend the Champions Ball, along with the men’s winner.
“Who would I want to win tomorrow? Come on guys,” Muguruza said, teasing the press. “Roger. So, I get to dance with him.”
And what is she going to do with the prize money, a robust £1,150,000 … “I must go buy a dress. I do not have it for the ball.”