All eyes have been on the other side of the draw as America cheered on Venus Williams and Britain roared for Johanna Konta in yesterday’s semi-final. And that is just the way that Garbine Muguruza likes it.
Quietly (grunting aside), efficiently and with ruthless power, she has reached her second Wimbledon final, dropping only one set on the way, and yesterday absolutely flattening Magdalena Rybarikova, the world No.87 from Slovakia, 6-1, 6-1 in 65 minutes.
At the end of May, Muguruza headed nervously to Roland Garros as defending champion. Suffocated by pressure and heckled by the crowd – she was playing the French heroine Kristina Mladenovic – she lost in the second round. And she was mightily relieved. Ever since, she has been a new woman: relaxed, free to play as she pleases on court and smiling when she leaves it. And now she is back in the Wimbledon final.
“Once Roland Garros was over, I just change the page,” she said, still smiling. “It was a different situation for me going into a grand slam as a defending champion. No matter how it ended up, it was good to have that behind and to look forward again for new objectives. It was something big to deal with. That’s it. I’m happy it’s behind already.”
With her regular coach, Sam Sumyk, off on paternity leave, Muguruza has enlisted the help of Conchita Martinez, the 1994 champion. Martinez surprised everyone by beating Martina Navratilova all those years ago and now she is helping Muguruza find her best form to cause another upset and beat Williams tomorrow.
“She’s helping me to deal with the stress of the tournament, because it’s a long tournament,” Muguruza said. “I’ve been here already a while. Is one day yes, one day no, one day yes, one day no. So she knows how to prepare, how to train, what to do.”
As for reaching another final (she lost her last one to Serena Williams two years ago), the experience of 2015 has settled her nerves and brought the best out of her this time around.
“You know what you are going to feel,” she explained. “You know what you more or less deal with out there. I feel much more calm, kind of controlling more my emotions than the last time. It was more new for me also. It’s a big change this time.”
What has not changed is her record against Williams: played four, won one. And the one, a few months ago, was on clay, which is Williams’s weakest surface.