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Muguruza makes Spain forget about Nadal with Serena shock French Open victory

By Paul Newman

When Rafael Nadal pulled out of the French Open because of injury after the second round, Spanish tennis was in shock.

“We all saw the news,” Garbine Muguruza said here on Saturday night. “We were like: ‘Oh, Roland Garros will not be the same.’ I said to my coach: ‘Federer and Nadal are not here. What’s it going to be like when they’re not playing? It’s going to be a disaster’.”

How wrong Muguruza was proved to be as the 22-year-old Spaniard herself went on to register her first Grand Slam triumph, beating Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4 in the final after a memorable performance of controlled aggression. Her compatriots Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez underlined Spanish joy later in the day by beating the Bryan brothers to claim the men’s doubles title.

Spain has long had a tradition of success here thanks to the likes of Manuel Santana, Sergi Bruguera, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Nadal, but Muguruza, who has a Venezuelan mother and a Spanish father, is not in the same tradition as most of her compatriots. Being 6ft tall and having long arms and legs, she does not look like a typical Spanish player.

“When I started playing I played in the Spanish style, which is a little bit more defensive and longer points,” Muguruza said. “Then I grew up and my body was not like a Spanish player’s. I was tall, I had a powerful game and my arms were long. So I was like: ‘No, you can’t play like most Spanish players do. You have to go for it, hit harder, kind of more Russian style.’ It works for me.”

In the final Muguruza attacked from the start, driving Williams back with a succession of thumping ground strokes. Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach, said the world No 1, foiled again in her attempt to match Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, paid the price for not consistently matching her opponent’s aggression.

“Serena was well below her best level,” Mouratoglou said. “She played too short and wasn’t nearly aggressive enough on her returns. Garbine was more aggressive and played with much more purpose on her returns and in the rallies.”

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