Having triumphed in Wimbledon one year after winning Roland-Garros, Garbine Muguruza has used her rebellious mind to reach the heights in London. An attitude which truly reflects her personality.
When your last name is Williams and you’re facing a young 23 year-old in a Grand Slam final, you can expect a hint of admiration and little too much politeness in the eyes of your opponent. Except when your opponent is called Garbine Muguruza. When the Spaniard faced Venus, 37, in the final of Wimbledon, and when she had too defend two set points in the first set, her arm didn’t shake. And she was even close from being disrespectful after winning nine consecutive games, leading to the American’s first ever set lost on the score of 6-0 in London (7-5, 6-0). That’s how Muguruza defeated a player she used to watch on television as a kid (she celebrated her sixth birthday when Venus won her first major), who’s considered to be the queen of British grass (five titles at Wimbledon) and whose CV was supposed to scare her (world number eleven against the world number fifteen, seven Grand Slam titles against one, four wins in five confrontations against one another, and only six break points and not a single set conceded on her way to the final.) A year earlier, it was Serena who suffered from the kid’s insolence at Roland-Garros. That same mix of hostility, of rage, of will and aggressiveness which then enabled the outsider to defeat the big favorite (7-5, 6-4).
« The Russian » or « Garbiniova »
Yes, but still : in 2016, Muguruza honored her nation by triumphing on a clay which is as much Spanish as it is French. It was impossible to see her being this comfortable on British grass, we thought at the time (Conchita Martinez, her coach, was actually the last Spaniard to have been crowned at Wimbledon, in 1994). A huge mistake : Garbiñe hates being labelled as a specialist of a certain style, or a certain surface. « People in Spain love comparing me to Arantxa Sanchez or Conchita Martinez, just because I’m Spanish and that I’ve won Roland-Garros, she said in Roland-Garros Magazine. But it can get unbearable because we don’t play in the same way at all. When people say that, I answer « OK » and I stop thinking about it. » So the Venezuela-born player rebelled and proved that no, she didn’t have to triumph on clay, despite what her passport indicated. « I have a very multifaceted style, says the one who was nicknamed « The Russian » and « Garbiniova » as a teenager. « I have more than one string to my bow. I can play with a Spanish style if I need too, and with a Russian style when I need to. On grass, I can play with a more aggressive style. » In truth, Muguruza doesn’t care about the critics she receives. She’s never as strong as when she’s attacked, and the player she is uses her well-known weaknesses (impulsiveness, irregularity, over-offensive style) as weapons to catch everyone off-guard. This trophy won at Wimbledon as she hadn’t play a single final since Roland-Garros in 2016 is the ultimate proof. « I think that people in Spain have picked up some very bad habits. They criticize everything, but I don’t care. Why ? Because I’ve never been a player who’s able to reach the semi-finals every week. My tennis is risky. I hit the ball hard, I play with the lines…So when the risks don’t pay off, I can lose matches. I lose a lot. I can win a tournament and lose in the first round immediately after, but people don’t want to understand that. My tennis will never be based on regularity. »
« I don’t want to be a robot »
That style (« dominating the game, taking the rally in your own hands ») fully corresponds to the young woman’s strong personality. Being allergic to defeat, even if she concedes them regularly, Garbine is yet to learn how to control herself perfectly. « I’ve always been a player who has a very strong personality. I used to argue with Luis Bruguera when he was the director of the Academy and I was just a kid ! I get angry because I’m a great perfectionist and I always want to win, she laughs. When I lose while playing cards, I become mad. I tell everyone that I will never play again. The same with golfing : if I miss my first stroke, I just want to break the club. » In other words, Muguruza, who resembles John McEnroe rather than Roger Federer, is not faking it. And she’s not ready to calm down : « I’m a very emotionally sensitive person and I don’t want to hide it. If I’m happy, I’ll be demonstrative. I don’t want to be a robot. I like to share emotions, and that people can see my natural personality. If I’m angry, I can break a racquet. If I’m happy, I can show them a big smile. I’m incapable of having a poker face. » A sincere transparency which owed her a few problems with some of her opponents on the circuit (who blamed her for having said in an interview that female tennis players hated each other, according to the journalist’s retranscription), but which is the answer to a limitless determination. The same determination which pushed her to train while sitting in a wheelchair in 2013. And the same which, last weekend, crowned her as the new queen of grass.
By Florian Cadu