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Muguruza: the superstitious Spaniard that might upend Serena

Suyash Upadhyaya | Updated on: 10 July 2015, 21:17 IST

World No. 20 Garbine Muguruza of Barcelona, Spain, doesn't like change. So when she steps out onto the court on Saturday to fulfill her dream of playing in the Wimbledon final against Serena Williams, the superstitious Spaniard will follow the exact same routine she did for her last four victories in the tournament - right from which foot she puts on the floor first when she gets out of bed, to the socks she wears.

While it was probably her ultra-aggressive baseline play rather than these trivial details which helped her get past Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky and Agnieszka Radwanska, there's no harm in trying is there? After all, the dominant American will be tough enough to beat.

Muguruza was not one of the names one would have expected to come this far. But she has gone from strength to strength in each round.

Technical prowess

Six feet tall with a natural poise and elegance, she has bent low, swung compactly and hit the ball cleanly on her way to the final.

Even Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena's coach, conceded: "She is a super dangerous opponent; it's clear that she was the most dangerous of the three in the semi finals here, (along) with Serena. Muguruza has everything to play well on grass: the serve, the aggressive returns, the flat strokes, the way she reaches the ball early. She's on her way up. She doesn't have much to lose."

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, to a Venezuelan mother and a Spanish father, she decided to represent Spain last year instead of Venezuela, with the 2016 Rio Olympics just over a year away.

Serena's coach Mouratoglou says she is a dangerous opponent: 'Muguruza has everything to play well on grass'

She moved to Spain at an early age, where she began training at the Bruguera Tennis Academy near Barcelona, founded by Luis Bruguera, the father of the two-time French Open champion Sergi.

Muguruza could not have found a better mentor, and the tenacious discipline Luis instilled in her still manifests itself in many ways.

In 2013, she missed the second half of the season due to injury. What did she do during her long layoff?

She went to the court and hit balls while seated in a chair.

Hopes of a nation

Muguruza will need to use every ounce of discipline at her disposal if she is to win on Saturday. Serena has been in clinical form and doesn't look like letting up easily.

The Spaniard, though, is being backed by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the last Spanish woman to reach the final of Wimbledon in 1996. She believes Muguruza's strength lies in the desire to play high-octane matches. "She's not nervous at all in these situations. She likes to be in these positions."

Along with Conchita Martinez, Sanchez Vicario was the leader of the golden age of Spanish women's tennis in the 1990s. But while Spain has gone on to produce some great players in men's tennis, like Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, Muguruza could shift the dynamic again.

In what is a slightly turbulent time for Spanish tennis, what with Nadal's slump and the dispute between players and administrators, a Wimbledon win could do a lot for the sport in the country.

Muguruza's parents were not in attendance when she beat Radwanska in the semi-final, and it is likely that she'll make sure they stay away from the final as well. But all that will not matter to them, or all of Spain, if she becomes only the second Spanish woman to win Wimbledon, after Martinez 21 years ago.

First published: 10 July 2015, 20:15 IST
Suyash Upadhyaya @SuyashU

A believer of the Indian football dream and an ardent cricket fan who likes to explore the nuanced side of all sports, Suyash finds creative expression in sports writing. Lover of literature, Liverpool FC, and an earnest economics enthusiast, he has just joined Catch News after completing his post graduation at Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai. When not staying up the whole night watching football, he loves spending time playing the sport itself, reading, and generally wondering when he'll decipher everything about the world around him.