Garbine Muguruza already knew what it’s like to lose to a Williams in the Wimbledon final. Now she knows how it feels to beat one for a championship at the All England Club.
Muguruza powered her way to her first title at Wimbledon and second at a Grand Slam tournament Saturday, beating a fading Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 by claiming the final’s last nine games.
At 37, Williams was bidding for her sixth championship at the grass-court major, 17 years after her first. And she was so close to gaining the upper hand against Muguruza, holding two set points at 5-4 in the opener. But Muguruza fought those off and did not drop a game the rest of the way.
In 2015, in her first Grand Slam final, Muguruza lost to Williams’ younger sister, Serena, whom the Spaniard then defeated in the French Open title match last year.
This time, with the Centre Court roof closed because of rain earlier in the day, the 23-year-old Muguruza was too good down the stretch.
Williams twice was a point away from winning the opening set, ahead 5-4 while Muguruza served at 15-40. On the first set point, a 20-stroke exchange ended when Williams blinked first, putting a forehand into the net. On the second, Williams sent a return long, and Muguruza pumped her fist.
It was as if getting out of that jam freed up Muguruza — and failing to capitalise on the opportunity deflated Williams. That began the match-closing nine-game run for Muguruza.
Williams began faltering, spraying her shots to unintended spots — long, wide, into the net — while the younger, less-experienced Muguruza stayed steady, pounding groundstrokes with all her force. Williams finished with 25 unforced errors, 14 more than Muguruza made.
It was an anticlimactic conclusion for Williams, who was the oldest Wimbledon finalist since 1994. Diagnosed in 2011 with Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, she learned to deal with that condition by turning to a plant-based diet and altering other routines. It took a while for her to get back to her best tennis.
Her resurgence began in earnest at Wimbledon a year ago, when she made it to the semifinals. Then, at the Australian Open in January, Williams reached the final, where she lost to her sister.
Serena is off the tour for the rest of this year because she is pregnant, and Venus spoke this week about missing her and wanting to put “Williams” on a trophy once again.
She came close to achieving that, but Muguruza would not allow it.