State Of Play
Tipped as the future of women’s tennis, Garbiñe Muguruza insists she’s just like everyone else
Up until June 2016, the name Garbiñe Muguruza wasn’t one that rang a bell for many sporting fans. That changed quickly after the lanky 22-year-old beat Serena Williams at Roland-Garros on 4 June 2016 to win her first glam slam title. In doing so, Muguruza denied Williams the opportunity to garner 22 grand slam titles, which would have put her on par with record-holder Steffi Graf.
Muguruza isn’t close to being the top female tennis player in the world yet, but some tennis greats have already tipped her as the potential future champion. When asked who she thought would become number one when Serena Williams eventually relinquishes the title, former world number one and three-time grand slam champion Lindsay Davenport told sports newspaper Sport360°, “It would be surprising if it wasn’t Muguruza, she’s amazing… She’s so much better than so many players. I really feel like if she got the discipline down, she should be winning almost weekly or winning lots of matches. She’s been the most impressive one to me.”
Similarly, American tennis legend Chris Evert told Eurosport viewers, “a star is born right here” when Muguruza won in Paris.
Following her French Open win, however, Muguruza suffered a surprise second-round exit to Jana Cepelova in Wimbledon and was outplayed by Puerto Rican Monica Puig at the Olympic quarterfinals in Rio. But she has since brushed off the losses, saying in an interview with AP, “The year is long. You never know what can happen.”
It is, perhaps, this chutzpah and pluck that pundits see as the reasons behind Muguruza’s potential to reach the top of the tennis ranks and stay there. The young Spaniard plays aggressively from the baseline and relishes being the one to beat on the court. “I am aggressive,” she answers when asked to describe her playing style. “If I am in command, I am dangerous.”
Strength and beauty
Born in Caracas, Venezuela on 8 October 1993, Muguruza moved to Spain when she was six years old. Growing up, she says, she watched her older brothers compete in tennis and knew she always wanted to be around the game.
She turned professional in 2012 and was given a wild card at the Miami Open that year for her first WTA main draw appearance. In a stunning upset, the fledgling professional beat second-seeded Vera Zvonareva and former world 10-seeded Flavia Pennetta in the second and third rounds, before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska who eventually took the title.
Results like that take talent—and plenty of training. Muguruza’s off-season regime sees her focusing on the physical training that can be applied on the courts. “So this could be two hours of gym in the morning, followed by another two and a half hours on the court, then lunch, and back in the gym or court. I finish my day with a good session with my physio,” she said.
During tournament season, she works on more specific physical and technical details with her coach Sam Sumyk. “If I have a match, we just warm up and do some stretching and physio at the end… Right before the match, I try to be as calm as possible, I talk to Sam about strategy, my opponent, and just be focused.”
Muguruza’s impressive power and athleticism on the court are matched by her breezy demeanour and natural chic off it. This unique, alluring package keeps fans rapt and sponsors interested. Now ranked third in the WTA, Muguruza is currently the face of Adidas by Stella McCartney, has a deal with racquet company Babolat, as well as other partnerships with BBVA Bank and Maui Jim sunglasses. No surprise then, that she has been named the 14th most marketable athlete in the world over the next three years by SportsPro magazine.
Her active use of social media doesn’t hurt either. Through her app Garbinesapp.com, her fans can get up-close and personal with their idol as she hosts live chats and posts her favourite songs, photos and live streaming videos.
Indeed, hers is a life that can hardly be described as ordinary, but Muguruza says she is just like anyone else. “My challenges are the same as most people’s: To try to improve every day, get up in the morning and be motivated with your life. (To) improve and be the best you can be in everything that you do.
“Being a tennis player is no different than other professions. Of course you get more exposure, but at the end of the day, you have to get up every morning and get the work done. The great thing about professional tennis is the good things that come with winning. Besides that, we are normal people trying to go through life. We have the same problems, aspirations, dreams… like everybody (else).”
By Annette Tan