Her first big splash on the WTA Tour offered a tantalizing glimpse of the future.

Coming off a $25,000 ITF event in Clearwater, Florida, Garbiñe Muguruza was granted a wild card into the main draw of the 2012 Miami Open. The 18-year-old from Spain, ranked No.208, stunned Vera Zvonareva, a Top 10 player, then future US Open winner Flavia Pennetta — in a third-set tiebreak.

And though she lost in the fourth round to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska, Muguruza, an imposing six-footer, announced herself with a breathtaking package of skills — explosive groundstrokes, a sizzling serve and soft, supple hands at net.

Those diverse attributes would carry her to the WTA No.1 ranking, two Grand Slam singles titles, two more major finals, a WTA Finals victory and nearly $25 million in prize money.

On Saturday, at the age of 30, Muguruza announced her retirement from professional tennis.

“If 25 years ago, when I started hitting my first tennis balls,” Muguruza said, “someone had told me that I would become a professional tennis player, that I would fulfill my dream of winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon, that I would become No.1 in the world and win the WTA Finals … I would have thought this person was crazy.”

Conchita Martinez, her coach at the height of her career, described Muguruza as a complete player.

“Very aggressive from the baseline, but also her transition to the net was very good, too,” Martinez told WTAtennis.com. “She played good on hard courts, but of course also on clay. Growing up in Spain, she also was very good at changing the pace and being able to also defend and construct the point from the baseline when she had the opportunity to go forward.

“She was a very confident player, amazing, attacking the serve from the opponent. When she was on and moving well, taking the ball early, she was very, very hard to beat.”

Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco was born on Oct. 8, 1993 in Caracas, Venezuela. Her mother, Scarlet, was a native Venezuelan and her father, Jose Antonio, was from the Basque region of Spain. Muguruza and her two older brothers, Asier and Igor, took to the game almost immediately. When Muguruza was six, the family moved to Spain and all three children enrolled in Sergi Bruguera’s tennis academy in Barcelona. Bruguera won back-to-back titles at Roland Garros in 1993-94.

At the height of her powers, when Muguruza collected her Grand Slam titles, she was dazzling.

It began at Roland Garros in 2016, when Muguruza put together a memorable fortnight. After struggling to beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three sets, she never dropped another one. Muguruza faced World No.1 Serena Williams in the final, a familiar foe at a familiar venue. Two years earlier, Muguruza, then only 20, stunned Serena in the second round in Paris.

This time, it was 7-5, 6-4 and Muguruza became Spain’s first French Open champion since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 18 years earlier. She foiled Williams’ attempt to draw even with Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 major singles titles.

Muguruza’s victory at Wimbledon the following year had a similar feel. This time she defeated No.1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the fourth round and drew Venus Williams in the final. The five-time Wimbledon champion had already reached the Australian Open final earlier that year, losing to younger sister Serena.

It wasn’t particularly close, 7-5, 6-0 Muguruza.

The symmetry was spectacular; Muguruza became the first Spanish woman to win Wimbledon since her coach, Martinez, in 1994.

“I remember she came from a tough loss in Eastbourne [6-1, 6-0 to Barbora Strycova],” Martinez said. “But her focus in every point, in every match was great. She had some very, very tough matches but in the end — semifinal, final — was a dream come true.”

The All England Club title was her second career major — and it came with an exclamation point. Muguruza remains the only player to beat both Venus and Serena in finals to win a major title.

Later that year, Muguruza would rise to the No.1 ranking, becoming only the 24th player to attain that honor. Muguruza finished in the year-end Top 5 six times in singles, and she was also a Top 10 player in doubles. Half of her 10 career titles were Grand Slams or WTA 1000s — 2015 Beijing, 2017 Cincinnati, 2021 Dubai.

Muguruza regained her place among tennis’ elite by winning the 2021 WTA Finals in Guadalajara and finishing the year ranked No.3. But by the end of 2022, she was down to No.55 — and out of the Top 50 for the first time since 2013.

She opened the 2023 season in dispiriting fashion, losing three matches in Australia — her first-round loss at the Australian Open was her first at that stage in Melbourne in a decade. A loss in Lyon made her 0-6 going back to the year before, and Muguruza announced she was leaving the game.

“She has had a Hall of Fame career,” 18-time major champion Martina Navratilova said. “I don’t think that many players start their career thinking, `I want to get into the Hall of Fame.’ That’s a big extra, and a pretty good group to be part of.

“When she was at her best, the forehand was working, the backhand was solid as a rock. Epic serve and good at net. She had all the bases covered. When she was on, she dominated. It was just surprising she didn’t dominate more.”

Throughout the early stages of her life, tennis has been a significant source of opportunity for Muguruza, providing her with a wealth of experiences both on and off the court. Her travels, she said, allowed her to soak in a variety of cultures and the beauty that comes with them.

“I am tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped and accompanied me throughout this chapter,” Muguruza said, “because without them I would not have been able to get there.”

Retirement, Martinez said, is always a personal choice.

“She felt like it was the right time,” Martinez said, “and I support her 100 percent.”

Last May, Muguruza became engaged to Arthur Blanco at the Marbella Club Hotel, with their oceanside wedding in Spain set for this summer.

“I have grown and matured in a very different way than what can be considered normal,” Muguruza said. “Now I am ready to start a new chapter in my life, which will surely be linked in some way to tennis and sports.”

Source: https://www.wtatennis.com/news/3973629/when-muguruza-was-at-her-best-she-was-the-best



Leave a Reply