Garbine Muguruza eases past Magdalena Rybarikova to reach Wimbledon final
Garbine Muguruza tormented Magdalena Rybarikova for an hour and five minutes on Centre Court before clinching a second Wimbledon final appearance.
Spaniard Muguruza was a 6-1 6-1 winner against a player who had said it was her childhood dream to play in a semi-final on Centre Court but saw the occasion turn into a nightmare.
Now 2015 runner-up Muguruza awaits the winner of the second semi-final between Britain's Johanna Konta and American five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.
Fittingly it was a backhand thrashed down the line that settled the issue, with Muguruza's best shot bringing her more rich reward.
Two years ago she was beaten by Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, since when she has become a grand slam champion at the French Open.
Victory against Serena at Roland Garros last year suggested she was a player heading for the top, although expectations have been tempered by a mixed bag of results since, notably with pre-Wimbledon defeats to Ashleigh Barty in Birmingham and Barbora Strycova in Eastbourne.
Now perhaps Muguruza is ready to claim a second major.
She was ruthless against Rybarikova, with that favourite shot of hers, the two-handed backhand, bringing up a break point in the second game. Rybarikova then double-faulted, and it would be that kind of day for the unseeded Slovakian.
Muguruza, wearing a visor on a day that hardly called for such headgear, soon led 5-0. Spectators warmly approved when Rybarikova finally got a game on the board, but the set was soon over.
Wearing a Stella McCartney-designed tennis dress, just as she was when reaching the 2015 final, Muguruza's tennis was suitably on trend for the modern age, heavy hitting from the 23-year-old wearing down the player across the net.
More belligerent tennis brought an immediate breakthrough in the second set, unrelentingly powerful and accurate strikes against Rybarikova being rewarded with a forehand from her crestfallen opponent that flew yards wide out of court.
The onslaught persisted. Serving at 0-40, Rybarikova shook her head in dismay before sending over a ball that Muguruza drove with that big backhand down the line for another thundering winner.
It was hard to believe Rybarikova was a player who had won 18 of her last 19 matches on grass, although when she won the best rally of the match with a cool lob in the fifth game it seemed there was still some sparkle left.
Yet over the course of the contest Rybarikova performed more like the player that had lost in the first round in eight of her previous nine visits to Wimbledon, rather than the bolter whose run this year amazed even those aware of her grass-court results leading into the fortnight.
Following a short-lived French Open campaign, Rybarikova played events in Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley, winning two titles and losing only to Konta in Nottingham.
She then beat Karolina Pliskova, who will become world number one next week, in the second round of Wimbledon.
It was some achievement to keep ploughing through the rounds, reaching her first semi-final of a slam at the 36th attempt, and at the age of 28, especially considering wrist and knee problems had seen her slide to 453rd in the world in March.
Now up to 87th, she was bidding to be the lowest-ranked women's grand slam finalist since Chris O'Neill, then ranked outside the top 100, won the 1978 Australian Open, but Muguruza had other ideas.