When one light so outshines all the others in tennis’s female firmament, it is not always easy to spot when a new star is born.
But whatever happens on Centre Court on Saturday afternoon, the name of Garbine Muguruza is one that will be worth remembering.
The Venezuelan-born Spaniard, 21 years old and the 20th seed, has – Serena Williams aside – played by far the most dominant and determined tennis of the last fortnight. There will have to be a new generation along soon and this young woman will be at the heart of it.
With fierce and unrelenting returns she broke her higher-ranked opponent Agnieszka Radwanska’s serve in the very first game and won the first set with such ease that the match had the feel of a formality.
But having again broken her opponent’s serve at the start of the second set, she lost five games in a row, allowing her opponent to draw level.
“I was very nervous in the second set. Radwanska has a lot of experience,” she said. “I think I was playing really, really good, like too good, so I had to stay calm, you know, poker face.”
The match came to an unusual and potentially controversial conclusion when Radwanska returned a shot from the baseline, only for voices in her box to shout “Out, out”. She had been in control of the point, but she interrupted it to challenge it. It was in by millimetres.
Had it not been, Muguruza might have had cause for complaint. Instead, Radwanska looked disbelievingly up at her team, having handed match point to her opponent. One unforced error later she was out, losing 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, and Muguruza was prostrate on the grass in tears.
“I don’t have words to explain it,” Muguruza said. “I work all my life to achieve this moment. You know, no words to explain it.”
She had won a first-set tie-break against the sixth seed Angelique Kerber 14-12 last Saturday, the first stage of a win that sent her unexpectedly into the second week. Since then she has played without fear, without restriction.
She is the first Spaniard to appear in a women’s final at Wimbledon since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1996. If she wins, she will be the first Spanish women’s champion since Conchita Martinez in 1994.
Her opponent in the final, Williams, has arguably found it tougher going, drawing on deep resolve to get past first Heather Watson, then Victoria Azarenka. Muguruza knows her toughest challenge, by an overwhelming margin, is yet to come. But on the evidence of the last fortnight, the same can be said for Williams.Reuse content