Muguruza hopes Wimbledon glory won’t backfire

Spain's Garbine Muguruza. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Updated 16 July 2017
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Muguruza hopes Wimbledon glory won’t backfire

LONDON: Garbine Muguruza hopes the legacy of her first Wimbledon title will not be a depressing repeat of the torment she suffered after her 2016 French Open breakthrough.
The 23-year-old Spaniard stunned sentimental favorite Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 on Saturday to clinch her second Grand Slam crown.
She immediately turned her thoughts to the future, hoping her triumph will be a launchpad for more majors rather than a one-way ticket into the abyss.
When she defeated Serena Williams to win Roland Garros last year, it was revenge for her loss to the American in the Wimbledon final 12 months earlier.
But instead of having the world at her feet, the burden of being a Grand Slam champion was too much.
She lost in the second round at Wimbledon last year to world number 124 Jana Cepelkova and crashed out at the same stage of the US Open to Anastasija Sevastova, ranked 48 at the time.
Muguruza made the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this year, but her Roland Garros title defense ended at the last-16 stage in tears and a bitter outburst at the Paris crowd.
“It’s not easy. It’s very good when you win it, and it’s hard after when you come back and you know you have to defend,” said Muguruza.
“But that’s a good problem to have. It was tough obviously, because you know you have a lot of matches to go.
“I’m happy to be in this situation. I’m happy that once again I see myself winning a Grand Slam, something that is so hard to do. It means a lot.
Muguruza’s title triumph on Saturday was her first of any kind since the 2016 French Open.
Two of her four career titles have now come at the majors.
When Muguruza lost in the first round at the Eastbourne grass-court event on the eve of Wimbledon, it looked like she was suffering another Paris hangover.
But with memories of her post-Roland Garros problems still fresh, she said she was determined to put the record straight.
She proved as good as her word, knocking out top seed Angelique Kerber, from a set down, and seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova on her way to the final.
“Eastbourne was such a short tournament, I didn’t play well there. But I did the week before in Birmingham (where she made the semifinals), so that helped me,” she said.
“I always come very motivated to the Grand Slams. Since I lost the final here I wanted to change that.
“I came thinking, I’m prepared, I feel good. During the tournament and the matches, I was feeling better and better. Every match, I was increasing my level.”
She said a glance at the honors board at the All England Club also spurred her on to end Venus’s dreams of becoming the oldest Grand Slam women’s champion.
“I always look at the wall and see all the names and all the history. I lost that final. I’m like, I was close. I didn’t wanted to lose this time, because I know the difference,” she said.
On Saturday, Muguruza saved two set points at 4-5 in the opening set and swept the remaining nine games to take the title.
Ironically, Saturday’s final represented the largest age gap between two finalists since 1994, when 22-year-old Conchita Martinez shocked 37-year-old Martina Navratilova for the Wimbledon title.
Twenty-three years later, Martinez was up in the player’s box on Center Court in her role as coach, standing in for Sam Sumyk, Muguruza’s regular coach who was at home with his pregnant wife.
“My level at tennis doesn’t change, no matter who is in my box or not. I’m the same player,” she said.
“I like Conchita to be in my team because I have a great relation with her.
“The coincidence of her winning against Navratilova, me winning against Venus, there were a lot of things there — it was awesome.”


Liverpool's unfashionable midfield the support act for Mohamed Salah

Updated 10 min 31 sec ago
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Liverpool's unfashionable midfield the support act for Mohamed Salah

  • Egyptian now has a remarkable 43 goals for the season
  • But he was backed up by a combative midfield trio of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum

LIVERPOOL: When Liverpool was last making a charge at the Champions League title, its midfield had legitimate claims at being among the best in the world.
It was 2008 and Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano made up an engine room that had a bit of everything: Energy, vision, work rate, goals.
Fast forward a decade and Liverpool is back among Europe's elite with a rather more unfashionable and functional central midfield that is proving to be just as effective.
Mohamed Salah naturally hogged the headlines after scoring two goals and setting up two others in Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma in the first leg of the semifinals on Tuesday. That made it 43 goals for the season for the Egypt winger, who has fast become the darling of Anfield and an icon back in his native country.
Yet Salah couldn't operate so effectively, and with such freedom, without the tireless and unselfish work of Liverpool's central-midfield three, which against Roma mainly comprised of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum.
That's the same Henderson who is often castigated and held up as a poster boy for the England national team's midfield woes in recent years. The same Milner who is now retired from England duty and has a parody Twitter account — "Boring James Milner" — named after him with 612,000 followers. The same Wijnaldum who was relegated from the Premier League with Newcastle two years ago.
This trio dominated the game against Roma, getting the better of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman — arguably more illustrious counterparts — and laying the platform for Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to run amok further forward.
"We didn't give any space away," Klopp said, with a nod to his midfield. "We controlled the game in a very nice football way."
That was often an accusation against Klopp, that his midfield couldn't control games because the team was too gung-ho in attack, leaving Liverpool's defense exposed.
This time last year, Philippe Coutinho was playing as a deep-lying central midfielder. The Brazil playmaker played lethal through-balls and scored some high-quality goals from long range, but didn't have the discipline and awareness of a natural center midfielder.
Coutinho's departure to Barcelona in January robbed Liverpool of one of world soccer's most creative minds but has invariably helped to shore up Klopp's midfield. The midfield now consists of three of Emre Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — all hard-working players who chip in with goals.
It's no surprise that Liverpool's defensive record has vastly improved as a result, especially with Virgil van Dijk a commanding presence at center back since joining for $99 million — a world-record fee for a defender — in January.
Milner, meanwhile, has emerged as something of a cult hero at Anfield — and an unlikely record-breaker in the Champions League.
When the 32-year-old Milner sent in a corner that was headed in by Firmino for Liverpool's fifth goal against Roma, he became the first player to have nine assists in a single Champions League campaign.
That sums him up, really, a player content to leave the glory to others. Milner was appreciated at Manchester City for his selflessness and versatility but he has blossomed further since his 2015 move to Liverpool, where he now is an out-and-out central midfielder after filling in at left back for most of last season.
Henderson is fully fit and is developing into a leader, albeit a more unassuming and less dynamic one than previous captain Gerrard. Wijnaldum has a knack of scoring big goals at Anfield and rarely lets Liverpool down, as shown against Roma when he replaced the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 18th minute and slotted straight into his role.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana potentially out for the rest of the season and Can also injured, Klopp is short of midfield cover outside of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum for Liverpool's final three Premier League games and, potentially, two more games in the Champions League.
Keeping Salah, Mane and Firmino fit has always been Klopp's priority this season. He'll be wrapping his three remaining senior midfielders in cotton for the final month now, too.