PARIS — A tall, fresh, commanding star blossomed in Paris on Saturday afternoon, with a fearlessness that hinted she can wear her stardom comfortably.
Garbiñe Muguruza, born in Caracas in 1993 to a Venezuelan mother and a Spanish father, not only reprised her distinct lack of intimidation at the sight of Serena Williams across a tennis net. She seemed to have trained her brain to shoo toxic thoughts, a promising knack at 22.
That helped this Barcelona-raised mauler of tennis balls walk out to serve for her first Grand Slam title, a horror to some, and elude the fog of four lost match points from the previous game to direct in four first serves to help win at love. It helped her withstand Williams’s long-standing resolve in a 7-5, 6-4 win that denied a 22nd Grand Slam title to a champion so thorough she got a long, rippling ovation with her runner-up plate.
And it helped Muguruza say thereafter, “Yes, it was very difficult to see you have four match points and it doesn’t go your way. But it’s a final. There’s no room for being disappointed or for excuses, for ‘Oh, I had four match points.’ ”
As this ub er-aggressor aims to fasten herself at the top of the rankings — she sits at No. 4 — her ability to tame her thoughts should combine with her unafraid heart to make her an even more familiar presence. By Saturday evening, before she went out to join her family at a restaurant, she told of chasing away another goblin, the one that hounded her after she reached the Wimbledon final last summer against Williams and lost, 6-4, 6-4.
From there, she traveled with the overweight baggage of expectations, exited in the U.S. Open second round and the Australian Open third round and reached Roland Garros without a title in 2016. From here, this ambitious one aims to differ.
“This story about the expectations, I already put it away,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not a good thing to think about. I felt it. So this is just a boom of energy for me to win a Grand Slam, obviously, so from now on, what I’m going to look for is to try to keep my level and forget about all this I-have-to-win, ‘Garbine has to win’ and all this . . .”
“Crap,” she said.
She and everyone laughed.
“The media sometimes, you call it, you say, ‘This one should be the next,’ but until it’s done, it’s complicated,” said her French coach, Sam Sumyk.
“She thought she had to win every match,” said Conchita Martinez, Spain’s Federation Cup captain and the 1994 Wimbledon champion, “and she was very tense and nervous for many matches.”
“I have been saying during the whole week to be less emotional,” Muguruza said.
By the time she got out there with Williams again, she punished tennis balls, often wowing the crowd with screaming shots into deep corners and giving spectators that rare sight of somebody out-powering Williams ever so slightly. By the time she got to the end, Sumyk said he had felt his rear end tighten from the lost match points but, asked whether he believed, said, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I believed it for sure.”
“First of all, she deserves 100 percent to be a Grand Slam champion,” said Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, “because when you’re able to be doing every shot to win and aggressive the way she was, she has been, which is something that a lot of players who have been even No. 1 were not able to do in a Grand Slam, she deserves it. Second, when you’re able to finish the way she finished, the last game, it’s a second reason to say that she deserves it 100 percent.”
“Well, I think she has a bright future, obviously,” said Williams, who twice this year already has walked around a net to hug a first-time Grand Slam winner and who on Saturday extolled the quality of both Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open and of a fresh French Open champion who looks unusually formidable.
This one started as a child with “Spanish style, which is a bit more defensive,” Muguruza said. “But then I grew up, and my body was not like a Spanish player. I was tall, I have a powerful game, my arms were long, so I’m like, ‘No, you can’t play like Spanish players. You’ve got to go for it, hit hard.’ Kind of more Russian style. That’s why they call me in Spain, ‘Oh, Garbine and her Russian style.’ ”
That makes her a Venezuelan-Spanish “Russian” who resides in Switzerland, so you might just say this latest star is from the world — as well as on top of it.