On court, Garbiñe Muguruza is one of the most fearsome athletes on the WTA Tour, particularly on the biggest stage. Just ask Venus Williams.
The fierce-hitting Spaniard has the power to blast through anyone who stands in her way, which has never been more evident than when she reeled off nine games in a row against Venus to secure a first Wimbledon crown and to become the first player in history to beat both Williams’ sisters in a Grand Slam final.
But without a racquet in her hand, Muguruza exudes a vastly different approach to life itself. Cheerful, warm, kind, she is a polar opposite from the fearful character who stepped out onto Centre Court on Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps more astonishing is her relaxed attitude to playing at one of the biggest tournaments of the year, which is best summed up by her activities on ‘middle Sunday’, just six days before winning her maiden Wimbledon title.
Picture the scene: Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou and five-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis are offering a ‘coaching clinic’ for a small section of the public and a few fortunate members of the media, and a completely laid back and approachable Muguruza – who don’t forget was about to face world No. 1 Angelique Kerber a day later – unexpectedly charges out of the club house to hit with the unsuspecting amateur competitors.
While I’m sure hitting volley-to-volley with me is something every star can only dream of in terms of ideal preparation for a Grand Slam, Muguruza’s aurora is one of someone just determined to enjoy life and have no regrets.
‘I don’t do that usually,’ she laughed. ‘But I like to do fun stuff, I like to do cleaning. Why not? It’s my day off.
‘I’ve got to stay concentrated but I can also have fun, you know? It is good sometimes as well to say, “you know what? Let’s just do something different” – get out of the concentration mode all the time because you end up so empty so it was actually pretty good, I liked it.’
Her attitude is not too dissimilar to her father’s, who packed up his life in Spain in search of adventure, falling in love and starting a family on a different continent – a decision that in turn led to one of tennis’ finest rising stars being born.
‘My father he was Spanish, he suddenly decided to go to South America to look for new opportunities, you know, discover a little bit of the world – adventure actually,’ she smiles.
‘And, of course, he fell in love – with a Venezuelan woman and then we all were born there and we started to play tennis. It’s not that popular maybe in Venezuela and in Spain it was so popular so my dad said, “Right, that’s it! We’re going to Barcelona,” easy!’
Despite the stardom that’s followed, Muguruza paints her life now as one of complete normality, regardless the pressures of being in the spotlight.
‘I always like to cook,’ she said to Metro.co.uk exclusively. ‘I’ve always liked to cook because my mum is a traditional woman, she cooks for like 20 people and I learnt a lot too with her.
Who is Garbine Muguruza?
Born: Caracas, Venezuela
WTA titles: 4
Grand Slam titles: 2 – French Open (2016), Wimbledon (2017)
‘And here especially it’s good for me because I can cook a lot of sweets for the team and stuff. I’m just a normal person, you know, I like going out to the cinema, going shopping, nothing special, I guess.
‘Sweets are my speciality, I love to do crème caramel, brownies and cakes. If you put sugar and butter, everything tastes good. Even the worst things.’
But if it was her dad who decided to move the Muguruza family back to Spain from Caracas and her mother who taught her to cook, it was the two older brothers of the 23-year-old who first truly forced her to appreciate the legends of the game.
She continued: ‘I watched a lot of [Andre] Agassi and [Pete] Sampras, you know, that rivalry because I had two brothers, they were always like: “Sampras, Agassi, Sampras, Agassi…” you know? So actually afterwards when the Williams’ came, [Martina] Hingis also I watched a little bit but I started with the men’s tennis.’
So who had a greater influence on her, Sampras or Agassi?
‘Sampras has a very specific game, you know, serve-and-volley so I guess I’m more like Agassi from the baseline a little bit, I don’t know, I love both of them,’ she beamed, before adding: ‘I like to volley also because, you know, I think it’s part of my game, I like to go forward and take my chances.’
While her approach differs from the two men’s greats, Muguruza has crafted her own style from attempting to replicate some of the best shots in the sport as she looked to develop her game.
‘I see a little bit of the individuals because I was watching all of them, she said of her own game.
‘I was like, “I like her serve and her forehand and this backhand” and kind of make my own perfect player, which is kind of actually better, you know?
‘Well I try to see Serena’s serve, which is very powerful, I like to see maybe Venus’ backhand. I don’t know, Radwanska’s talent, I don’t know just a little bit picking everything.
‘Now I probably watch more woman’s because it’s what I have to watch.
‘I love the top players but I always love to watch Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer] – he’s so elegant, I love to see him.’
While enjoying the form of her fellow 2017 Wimbledon champion, Muguruza holds her compatriot in particularly high esteem.
‘Sometimes we bump into each other because we play a lot of the same tournaments, she said of Nadal. ‘We joke a lot basically, I love it.
‘Five minutes with somebody like Rafa, it’s incredible, it means more than like talking with anyone – he knows a lot so I’m like, “tell me something, teach me, a tip – something”.’
So will she follow in the footsteps of the stars she’s for so long looked up to and chase the so often coveted world No. 1 spot?
‘I don’t know what the feeling of being the No. 1 woman is, yet. But I know what it is to win a tournament and I know the ranking is so temporary,’ she pointed out.
‘You can be one week one and next week you’re two, so, once you get there, you’re No. 1 – yes!
‘But you know, for me, holding a trophy is history; it’s like I’ve got the Wimbledon trophy at my house, it’s more that I can touch it. I don’t know how to explain it.’
It’s not just any silverware that motivates Muguruza, though. Two of her four WTA Tour titles are Grand Slams – no Open Era player has ever won so few titles by the time of their second major – something she admits is unusual.
‘I don’t know why,’ she confessed. ‘Maybe, for me, winning big titles is what really matters, holding a big trophy and I don’t know I’m super happy I have two. I don’t know why.
‘I don’t know what happens with the other tournaments, where am I? I don’t know. You know, this kind of feeling. But if I can have more of this, then hey, that’s good.’
Garbiñe Muguruza at an adidas by Stella McCartney event, throughout the tournament she wore the adidas by Stella McCartney FW17 dress. #mygame