LONDON—Garbiñe Muguruza’s 7-5, 6-0 win over Venus Williams in the final here on Saturday was a tale of two matches. One set was taut, tight, tense and rivetingly competitive. The other was a blowout. The dividing line between them was very clear: This title was essentially decided by two mirror-image points at the end of the first set.
Serving at 4-5, Muguruza hit a forehand long and a forehand into the net to go down 15-40—double set point for Venus. Muguruza’s forehand had been shaky at the start, and now it looked like it was going to cost her. On the next point, the Spaniard and the American engaged in the longest rally of the match to that point. Venus, naturally, directed most of her shots toward the Muguruza forehand, but this time the Muguruza forehand held firm. Instead, it was Venus who finally blinked, netting a forehand of her own. Muguruza saved another break point and held for 5-5.
In the next game, it was Venus’ turn to go down 15-40, and it was Muguruza’s turn to test Venus’ forehand in another long rally. Again it was Williams who blinked. She sailed a forehand long, and Muguruza had the first break of the match. It was all she needed. The 23-year-old held for the set and went on to win six more in a row in just 26 minutes.
During those six games, Muguruza’s level stayed high; she made just one unforced error in the second set and didn’t put a foot wrong while galloping down the homestretch. But in the surprise of the day, Venus’ game, which had grown stronger with each match, suddenly vanished without a trace—she struggled just to keep the ball in the court, or within five feet of the lines. Midway through the set, Venus tried to come to the net more. Theoretically, going on the attack was a better idea than staying back and making errors, but Muguruza had the answers. Near the end, Muguruza hit a backhand pass crosscourt at the same time that Venus broke in the other direction. It was a painful symbol of the second set for Williams, who could hardly muster a grunt by the end.
“There’s errors, and you can’t make them,” Venus, still tight-lipped, said afterward when she was asked what had happened. “You can’t make them. I went for some big shots and they didn’t land.”
Venus didn’t reveal much more in her press conference, but in trademark Williams fashion she was able to go out with her head high, and a hopeful note for her sister.
“I tried my best to do what you do,” Venus told Serena through the camera on court. “But I think there’ll be other opportunities.”
If anyone can make them happen, it’s Venus. We know that, even at 37, she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“She played really well,” Venus said of Muguruza. “I mean, she played top tennis, so I have to give her credit for just playing a better match. I’ve had a great two weeks. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”
Muguruza walked on court with her game face on, and then some. There were no polite smiles from her in the moments before the match started. She had lost the final here two years ago to Serena Williams, but she hadn’t forgotten what Serena had told her that day: You can win this thing. Muguruza had looked to be in winning form since the round of 16 on Monday, when she knocked off No. 1 seed Angelique Kerber.
Leaning in and never hesitating, Muguruza was uncannily accurate with her high-risk attack. She aimed for corners, and that’s exactly where the ball landed. But she didn’t swing mindlessly. When the first set was on the line at 4-5 and she needed to keep her shaky forehand in the court, she dialed back the aggression, stayed steady and won the long rally she needed to win.
“I always come very motivated to the Grand Slams,” Muguruza said. “Since I lost the final here, I wanted to change that. I came thinking, ‘I’m prepared, I feel good.’ During the tournament and the matches, I was feeling better and better.
“I feel incredible to be able to play [Venus] here. Of course I’m nervous because I always dreamed about winning it, but I was composed.”
This is Muguruza’s second major title, and with her win over Serena at the French Open last year, she becomes the first player to beat both of the Williams sisters in Slam finals. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that, during those 13 months, she has failed to reach another final. Which means it’s too early to make any predictions about Muguruza being the new face of the WTA—she’s not going to play like this every week. What we can say is that, while she doesn’t win often, she has the game and the mentality to win big, and to make the most of her chances when they present themselves. At 23, Muguruza has a Wimbledon and a French Open. With those trophies at home, who needs to be No. 1? Serena herself has always prioritized the Slams over the rankings.
Still, it would be nice to think that Muguruza, who worked for these two weeks with another Spanish Wimbledon champion, Conchita Martinez, could find this level again on a regular basis. Tennis is better when its best players play well, and it’s much better when Muguruza is leaning into her shots, aiming an inch from the line, taking a brave cut and putting the ball right where she wants it to go.
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