GARBINE MUGURUZA knows the highs and the lows of life at the tennis summit but is delighted to be back on top after claiming her first Wimbledon title.
The Spaniard turned the tables on the Williams family two years after losing in the final to Serena by beating Venus 7-5 6-0 on Centre Court.
The victory earned Muguruza a second Grand Slam trophy just over a year after her maiden win at the French Open.
She was anointed as the player to take over the mantle from the Williams sisters following that June 2016 triumph in Paris and promptly wilted under the weight of expectation.
But now Muguruza is back and her performances this fortnight suggest there could be many more glory days to come.
“It’s not easy,” she said. “It’s very good when you win it, and it’s hard after when you come back and you know you have to defend it. But that’s a good problem to have.
“I’m happy to be in this situation.
“I’m happy that once again I see myself winning a grand slam, something that is so hard to do. It means a lot.
“It’s very hard to find a recipe to feel good fitness-wise, tennis-wise, mentally. I think in this tournament I put everything together.”
Muguruza had not made it to the final of any tournament since winning Roland Garros and this was just her fourth career title, two of them grand slams.
I was expecting the best Venus, because I saw her, and she was playing very good. I knew she was going to make me suffer and fight for it. When I had those set points against me, I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s normal. I’m playing Venus here’.Garbine Muguruza
In the week before Wimbledon, the Spaniard was beaten 6-1 6-0 by Barbora Strycova in Eastbourne.
“Once I go to the big court, I feel good,” she said. “I feel like that’s where I want to be, that’s what I practise for. That’s where I play good.
“I’m happy to go to the Centre Court and to play the best player. That’s what motivates me.”
Williams, bidding to become the oldest women’s singles champion at Wimbledon for more than a century, was the sentimental favourite.
The 37-year-old was looking to win her sixth Wimbledon title nine years after her last and keep the trophy in the family in the absence of pregnant sister Serena.
There was almost nothing to separate the pair in a high-quality first set, and it was Williams who had the first sniff with two set points at 5-4.
But Muguruza saved them both and did not look back, committing fully to her game plan, defending superbly when needed and not letting her focus slip for a minute.
She said: “I was expecting the best Venus, because I saw her, and she was playing very good. I knew she was going to make me suffer and fight for it.
“When I had those set points against me, I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s normal. I’m playing Venus here’.
“So I just kept fighting. And I knew that if I was playing like I was playing during the two weeks, I was going to have eventually an opportunity. So I was calm. If I lose the first set, I still have two more.”
The Centre Court crowd laughed when Muguruza said in her in-court interview that she had grown up watching Williams play.
But she meant no disrespect in highlighting the age gap – quite the opposite.
“When I knew I was playing Venus in the final, I was actually looking forward to it,” she said.
“For me it was a challenge to have her, growing up watching her play. Everybody started laughing. But, in fact, it’s something incredible.
“I was so excited to go out there and win, especially over a role model.”
Muguruza’s victory was watched by the long-time king of Spain, Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014, and a Royal Box audience that included a host of former Wimbledon women’s champions.
Having not made a grand slam final since 2009, Williams has contested two this year but finished on the losing side both times after also coming up short against Serena in Australia.
She knew the chances were there in the first set, and said: “I definitely would have loved to have converted some of those points.
“But she competed really well. So credit to her. She just dug in there and managed to play better. I’ve had a great two weeks. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”
Williams has not won a grand slam title away from Wimbledon since the US Open in 2001 but remains convinced she has another one in her.
She said: “I’ve been in a position a lot of times this year to contend for big titles. That’s the kind of position I want to keep putting myself in.
“It’s just about getting over the line. I believe I can do that. I like to win.
“I don’t want to just get to a final. It’s just about playing a little better.”
Muguruza joins Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova among the active female players on two grand slam singles titles. Only Serena Williams and Venus Williams, with 23 and seven respectively, and Maria Sharapova on five, have more. She is only the second player to face both Williams sisters in the final of the same Grand Slam after Martina Hingis beat Venus to win the US Open in 1997 then lost to Serena at the same tournament in 1999.