Wimbledon 2015: Serena Williams wins Major No21 over valiant Muguruza

Serena Williams beats Spain's Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4 to win her sixth Wimbledon title

What a difference a day makes—or rather a fortnight makes—in the life of a tennis player named Garbine Muguruza.

When the tall, elegant woman from Barcelona arrived at the All England Club to begin her remarkable progress through the draw, Muguruza was ranked at 20 and had won only a single match at the tournament before. She was not, she said, a great fan of grass, and that was borne out by two early losses at the Wimbledon warm-up events in Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Clay? Well she had reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros both last year and this.

Hard courts? Her first wild card into a WTA tour event, the prestigious Miami Premier in 2012, saw her beat two seeds to reach the fourth round. The next year, she did the same at both Indian Wells and Miami, and last year she opened with her first title, in Hobart, reached her first fourth round at the Australian Open, and this year made the semis in Dubai.

But grass, was another matter—until now. Since she arrived here, a new name and fresh game for most of the Wimbledon faithful, she has powered and charmed her way through seeds with real pedigree: former semi-finalist here Angelique Kerber, former world No1 Caroline Wozniacki, last month’s French Open semi-finalist Timea Bascinszky—before beating the grass craft of former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska.

And here she was, in her first Grand Slam final at the age of 21, aiming to become the first Spanish champion since Conchita Martinez won in 1994. Perhaps Wimbledon owed Martinez some thanks for it, too.

When Muguruza texted the former champion about her doubts on the grass, the reply came loud and strong: “Come on, you can play well. You’re doing great.” Muguruza added: “She was giving me power.”

But of course there was just one problem: Serena Williams.

The mighty American, No1 since the start of 2013, holder of the other three Grand Slams and more than ready to claim her 21st Major title along with the ‘Serena Slam’—all four ‘big ones’ at the same time—had picked up a shocker of a draw, yet negotiated her way through some of the best that tennis has to offer.

In Round 4, it was multiple Wimbledon champion and No16 seed, sister Venus; then came former world No1 and two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka; and finally another former No1 and Wimbledon champion, Maria Sharapova. She had, in fact, lost only one match in the entire year, to Petra Kvitova in Madrid.

But there was one factor that made her match against Muguruza anything but a foregone conclusion. The Spaniard had some form against the American.

Of three matches, Williams had won the first in Australia with ease, but in the second Muguruza topped the American in barely an hour at the French Open. And in their last meeting, in Australia this year, Muguruza won the first set before Williams stormed back to win after two hours.

So Williams knew she could have a battle on her hands, and the first few games proved it—and had the Centre Court crowd in uproar. For it certainly wasn’t the young Spaniard who showed nerves but rather the five-time champion Williams,

For one of the finest servers in tennis, three double faults in a game is unheard of, yet that is what she did in the opener. It brought up the first of four break points as they battled between deuce and break point. A final backhand long, and Muguruza had the lead, and a quick hold and she had done the unthinkable: 2-0.

Gradually, though, the Williams serve settled into its 120mph+ rhythm, and she went after Muguruza’s serve. The Spaniard showed huge resilience to fight off 15-40 in the sixth game, reeling off four straight points, but faced with more break points in the eighth, she could not stave off the inevitable.

Williams levelled 4-4, made a huge statement on serve, and pounded through a baseline rally to break with a forehand winner, 6-4.

How would the debutante respond to such a reversal of fortune? Initially, there was little she could against the focused Williams, who got first one break in the fourth and then another to go 5-1. The ace count was rising, but Muguruza was not done yet. Williams blinked as she served for the match and the Spaniard broke to love. Centre Court erupted: They wanted more of this gutsy, big-hitting young woman—and they got it.

Two cracking backhands and she had break points again. Three Williams’ aces and it was deuce, but Muguruza converted a fifth chance with a forehand winner. Again Centre Court was in uproar at this unexpected turn of events.

All Muguruza had to do was hold serve—but then the nerves took hold, she made only her second double fault of the match, and fired one last ball wide. Williams was champion again, 6-4—and Wimbledon rose to cheer not one but two women.

Muguruza, already trying to hold back the tears, could do so no longer as the fans gave her an extended ovation. Through the tears, she managed what will become one of the most photographed smiles of Wimbledon to say: “I enjoyed a lot… I cannot talk! I can’t say how I feel—very proud, playing in front of you.”

Asked if she had changed her mind about the grass, she grinned again: “Yes! We don’t have that much grass in Spain, but I’m going to change things now!”

But what is there left to say of the champion herself? This was, remarkably, her 29th win from her last 31 finals, and she has, of course, sealed the ‘Serena Slam’ 13 years after her first one. She also remains on course for a still rarer achievement if she wins another US Open: the Calendar Slam, only ever achieved by three other women.

She is also, now, the oldest woman to win a Major title in the Open Era, at 33yrs 289 days, taking the record from Martina Navratilova.

She had the most generous of words for the runner-up: “Don’t be sad, Garbine, you’ll be holding this trophy very, very soon. You’re a great champ.”

And then she revealed the secret of her continuing success at a time when lesser women may have hung up their rackets: “I’m having so much fun out here. I never dreamed I’d still be out here—and winning Wimbledon!”

Watch this space: there could be much more to come.

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