Unlike what most people believe, I don’t feel this being Garbine Muguruza’s first slam final will hinder her and instead assist, especially given the opponent she is facing. I imagine she will feel reaching the final of Wimbledon, a major played on the surface she was least comfortable on up until this week, as a resounding achievement.
How being the severe underdog can help Muguruza:
As corny as it sounds, she probably believes she’s won and this match is a ‘bet to nothing’. I’m sure she doesn’t expect herself to beat Serena Williams and is aware no one expects herself to beat Serena Williams. She will be telling herself to go out there and embrace being in a Wimbledon final. Weighing this up and putting it into clear perspective may just enable Muguruza to play her best tennis. That content mindset for being happy to just share a grand stage with an all time great, her idol. She’ll know there’s no shame in losing to arguably the greatest female player that there has ever lived.
Being content at just being in the final can definitely work in Muguruza’s favour, given she operates with a pure attack minded game. She will be able to swing through her strokes and play her natural game. There will be pure clarity of thought on what sort of game-plan she needs to execute.
The pressure Serena faces:
The onus is all on Serena. She is the one that’s chasing Steffi Graf’s 22 grand slam major record, she is the one attempting to win the calendar year grand slam the media have been constantly pestering her about and she is ultimately the one who the entire tennis world (And casuals) watching, expect to win. The crowd will be with Muguruza, as the British public are often a sucker for the underdog and it will help Muguruza feel as though she isn’t alone out there. I’m sure at some point during the match she will get on a roll and flow hot with some momentum, reeling off games.
Another possible scenario is Serena having one of these emotionally hysterical break-down episodes, where she goes through all these acts of trauma, missing mid-court balls, easy smashes etc.
Serena is less than likely to serve as flawlessly as she did against Sharapova in the semis. Two reasons. 1) The match has a lot more meaning and importance to it and 2) Serena knew what to expect with Sharapova, there was that assurance in her mind that she would always win in the end. With Muguruza, Serena isn’t really sure of how she matches up against the Spaniard, given they’ve only had three meetings and one of those much before Muguruza had matured into the senior tour. There’s unknown, nervous quantity attached, definitely.
Of course Muguruza has a lot to offer. Her serve and return of serve are quite good. Though it may be tricky for her to find her rhythm on return, given she has beaten predominantly counter-punchers to get to this final. Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky and bag of tricks Agnieszka Radwanska. None of them are of course big servers and all of them had second serves you can pounce on. She will need to definitely retreat her return position on second serve return slightly and be ready to shorten her back-swing so as to absorb the pace that will be coming at her. She can do this and she isn’t an awful mover on the back foot, so is capable of neutralising Serena’s barrage that will be coming down in the first two to three shots in rallies. Muguruza like Serena has a great backhand and the backhand to backhand duels cross court will be interesting. Both players possess the easy ability to flip the script and take the backhand up-the-line too.
Muguruza’s tactics when she beat Serena at the French Open last season:
When Muguruza played Serena Williams at the French Open last season the one thing she was doing which were causing problems for her was second serve returns down the middle/centre of the court and eliminating most angle to work with. I am not doing her justice in fact, she wasn’t only returning them down the centre, she was returning them hard and deep, almost meeting with the primadona shoe laces of Serena, yorking her. Of course it’s a no brainer, the Philippe Chatrier court is much slower to the grass on centre court here at Wimbledon and Muguruza, as good a returner as she is, will inevitably be dealt with having less time to work with on second serve return.
Muguruza’s intuitive familiarity with the Serena game
Muguruza has idolised Serena for years and so would have watched many of her encounters on video and youtube, you would imagine. She must be familiar with the game and may have effective patterns of play mapped out in her head. She’ll certainly feel she can go out there and give it a go. She probably has a good ‘feel’ for Serena’s general shot choice in certain moments at certain times.
(Betting perspective: Over 20 games in match at 1.87)