Mugu­ruza wins Wimbledon Spa­niard ends Venus Wil­liams’s run at his­tory in fi­nal

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHUCK CULPEP­PER

wimbledon, eng­land — In the front row of the friends box sat Con­chita Martinez, one of the world’s fore­most ex­perts on the art of us­ing un­com­mon will to punc­ture un­com­mon sen­ti­men­tal­ity in an un­com­mon set­ting. Twen­tythree years ago on Cen­tre Court, a 22year-old Martinez left 37-year-old Martina Navratilova a sigh­ing run­ner-up in a blaze of third-set pass­ing shots al­most shock­ing in their to­tal­ity.

On Satur­day, Martinez paid close-up wit­ness to some­thing al­most pre­pos­ter­ous in co­in­ci­dence. A 23-year-old fel­low Spa­niard she has coached in the Fed­er­a­tion Cup and helped out in­di­vid­u­ally for the past three weeks, Gar­bine Mugu­ruza, re­it­er­ated her deep se­ri­ous­ness about her tip­top cal­iber. By wield­ing her pow­er­ful will in a match full of power with 37-yearold Venus Wil­liams, es­pe­cially dur­ing a fe­ro­cious late stage of the first set, Mugu­ruza won her se­cond Grand Slam ti­tle, 7-5, 6-0, and left Wil­liams a sigh­ing run­ner-up.

Then the first-time Wimbledon cham­pion — who had lost the 2015 Wimbledon fi­nal — said, “I didn’t want to lose this time, be­cause I know the dif­fer­ence.”

That grew loudly ob­vi­ous at 5-4 in the first set, with the match on serve and Wil­liams hav­ing held serve for 52 of her pre­vi­ous 54 ser­vice games, stretch­ing back into the se­cond set of her se­cond round. Mugu­ruza served, sprin­kled in some fore­hand er­rors and tum­bled into se­vere in­con­ve­nience at 15-40, leav­ing two set points for the five-time cham­pion. The crowd mur­mured that patented Wimbledon mur­mur. What fol­lowed seemed down­right lu­di­crous: Wil­liams lost the fi­nal nine games and her fi­nal four ser­vice games, and that process af­forded a full-on glimpse at Mugu­ruza’s tow­er­ing will.

In her head, Mugu­ruza as­sured her­self that her fore­hand er­rors were about to de­part the premises in fa­vor of fore­hand stingers in­side the base­line. In her head, she also had a fan­tas­tic turn of think­ing, ideal for the ten­sion. “I was ex­pect­ing the best Venus,” she said, “be­cause I saw her, and she was play­ing very good. I knew she was go­ing to, you know, 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 keep fight­ing.”

The next point proved that smash­ingly. It was a 20-shot marvel full of grunts and bangs and thwacks that rang un­der the roof be­neath a Lon­don driz­zle. As it wound on, it seemed clear that Mugu­ruza, the 2016 French Open cham­pion over Ser­ena Wil­liams, would have hit ground­strokes un­til De­cem­ber to get that point. Wil­liams fi­nally shipped a fore­hand from the base­line into the net, and Mugu­ruza placed a 98mph serve di­a­bol­i­cally enough that Wil­liams re­turned it long.

It was deuce, but it was al­most over, even if no­body knew. A 15shot rum­ble on Mugu­ruza’s se­cond break point in the next game ended with Wil­liams’s fore­hand long for 6-5, and a world-class 12-shot tus­sle in the 6-5 game in­cluded a swell Wil­liams lob in heav­ing de­fense but ended when Wil­liams net­ted a back­hand. Mugu­ruza knelt over some­what and fist-pumped be­hind the base­line.

Only then did the 23-year-old be­gin to look very much 23 and the 37-year-old very much 37, as if that lit­tle stretch of com­pound­ing dis­ap­point­ment left her com­pro­mised. Mugu­ruza won 26 of the 38 points in a se­cond set that seemed like only filler, and it was time to count the co­in­ci­dences.

“It was a whole dif­fer­ent match” from 1994, “and it wasn’t talk­ing about me,” said Martinez, fill­ing in with Mugu­ruza while her coach, Sam Sumyk, re­mained home for the birth of a child. “It was more about what she had to do to beat Venus and not fo­cus on her age. But in­side of me, in my mind, you know, there were too many co­in­ci­dences. Thirty-seven. She beat her on clay this year in Rome. I beat Martina on clay that year in Rome, that year that I won, so I was like, ‘Okay, we’re go­ing to do this.’ ”

The fi­nal­ists, in turn, sounded as win­ners and run­ners-up tend to sound: one with ef­fu­sive, multi-para­graph an­swers, the other with a lot of brevity, her dis­ap­point­ment clear at the op­por­tu­nity lost.

Mugu­ruza: “At the begin­ning, you know, I didn’t like grass. For sure I suf­fered, you know, to play and to han­dle it. It took me a while to calm down, to say, ‘Hey, it’s grass. You have to adapt to the sur­face.’ Once I did this Wimbledon fi­nal, ev­ery­thing changed for me be­cause I felt like, ‘Stop com­plain­ing. Your game suits this sur­face.’ Since that mo­ment I’m like, ‘I like grass, and I’m go­ing to look at it in a pos­i­tive way.’ ”

Wil­liams: “Yeah, I think she played amaz­ing. She played amaz­ing.”

Mugu­ruza, a big-game player who has strug­gled to mas­ter the smaller mat­ters: “I think once I go to the big court, I feel good. I feel like that’s where I want to be. That’s what I prac­tice for. That’s where I play good, you know. This is what I would like to. I’m happy to go to the Cen­tre Court and to play the best player. That’s what mo­ti­vates me.”

Wil­liams, on whether her age or her au­toim­mune con­di­tion, Sjo­gren’s syn­drome, had sapped her: “I mean, she played top tennis, so I have to give her credit for just play­ing a bet­ter match.”

Mugu­ruza, on play­ing with­out her main coach: “You have to think that my level tennis-tically doesn’t change, no mat­ter who is in my box or not. I’m the same player.”

Wil­liams, on whether she will re­turn next year: “Pre­sum­ably, yes.”

As with the nine-time cham­pion Navratilova then, the sen­ti­ment tilted to­ward Wil­liams now, yet her per­for­mances in re­cent Grand Slams sug­gest a con­sis­tent reprise that de­fies all sen­ti­ment. Though Satur­day’s match marked her first Wimbledon fi­nal since 2009, she is the only player on the WTA Tour to reach two Grand Slam fi­nals this year, the only player on the WTA Tour to reach the round of 16 in all the past six Grand Slams. So it fit that at a Wimbledon so much about Wil­liams, a fresh cham­pion con­cluded her English re­marks rav­ing about Wil­liams.

“I’m just very sur­prised that she’s hun­gry to keep win­ning,” Mugu­ruza said. “She has won al­most ev­ery­thing. She’s not any­more young to be look­ing for­ward to all these matches. She just shows this tough­ness. I don’t know. I don’t know if I will be like this with her age.”

And then: “Prob­a­bly I won’t, be­cause she’s the only one.”

DAVID RAMOS/GETTY IM­AGES

Gar­bine Mugu­ruza won the fi­nal nine games to beat Venus Wil­liams in straight sets Satur­day, cap­tur­ing her first Wimbledon and her se­cond Grand Slam ti­tle.

TIM IRE­LAND/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gar­bine Mugu­ruza left Venus Wil­liams two set points in the first set be­fore turn­ing things around and rolling to a vic­tory Satur­day.

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