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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Wimbledon: Garbine Muguruza not hot and bothered about title defence after French Open 2017 experience

Spaniard calmer and more self-assured, focusing on immediate challenges rather than big picture

Spain's Garbine Muguruza won the Wimbledon singles title last year and the French Open crown in 2016. Reuters
Spain's Garbine Muguruza won the Wimbledon singles title last year and the French Open crown in 2016. Reuters

Defending the Wimbledon title will, in the nicest possible way, be no big deal for Garbine Muguruza.

The Spaniard won her second grand slam title at SW19 12 months ago, dropping just one set in seven matches and beating Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 in the final.

Her title triumph came only a little more than a month after the defence of her first major crown at the French Open literally ended in tears. Muguruza lost in the fourth round to home favourite Kristina Mladenovic in front of a partisan crowd and then broke down in her post-match media conference.

Rather than enjoying the return to the scene of her then greatest triumph, Muguruza conceded she was glad it was all over.

Muguruza, 24, is determined Wimbledon will be different, telling Press Association Sport: "I learnt a lot from defending the French Open title. I'm completely different now. Before I was thinking a lot about the tournament and now I don't even think about it. I know it will naturally come, there's no reason to worry today.

"I learnt to take a little bit more distance. I have a tournament almost every single week. I struggled a little bit because it was new for me, I never felt that nervous before a tournament where you feel you have a lot of expectation, what's going to happen, and all these things.

"And now I'm like: 'OK, whatever, this is not important at all.' I'm going to go out there and just play the best I can and that's it. It's so much more simple."

There is no doubting, though, what a joyous moment it was for Muguruza to hold aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish two years after announcing herself as arguably the pick of the new generation by reaching the Wimbledon final, where she was beaten by Serena Williams.

"I know it's going to be so important to go back, it's going to be an amazing feeling to go on the court again and just remember a little bit the feelings from last year," the Spaniard said.

"It was such an incredible feeling. I felt like with each match I was playing a little bit better and my opponents were getting tougher and tougher.

"It was just such a great feeling because three years ago I lost in the Wimbledon final and it was such a tough moment, to never know if you're going to be there again. So when I was last year in that situation again I didn't want to let it go and it was just a little bit of revenge."

Muguruza is consistently cited as the player most likely to take over the mantle from Williams, and despite ongoing wild fluctuations in her form, her ability to suddenly click her powerful game into gear, particularly on the biggest stage, marks her out.

She did it again at the French Open two weeks ago, thrashing Maria Sharapova on her way to the semi-finals, before her run was ended by eventual champion and world No 1 Simona Halep.

Muguruza, ranked third in the world, goes into Wimbledon among the favourites to successfully defend her title, although lurking somewhere in the draw – seeded or not – will be the name of Serena Williams.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion impressed in Paris before pulling out before a much-anticipated clash with Sharapova and will hope to find some of her old dominance on grass.

"I know she's Serena Williams and she can play incredible and you can never underestimate a champion like her, even though she didn't play as much," said Muguruza. "She's always a danger in whatever draw, whatever tournament."