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21 Jun 2016
IOC News , RIO 2016 , Tennis

Muguruza’s star on the rise

Newly crowned French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza could well form a sensational mixed doubles partnership with Rafael Nadal in Rio, where 22-year-old Spaniard will also go for gold in the women’s tennis singles and doubles.

Already a well-known sporting figure and the Spanish women’s No1, Garbiñe Muguruza took her profile to a whole new level when she won her maiden tennis Grand Slam title on the red clay of Roland Garros.

However, even at the start of the French Open she was unable to contain her excitement about Rio 2016, tweeting a photo of herself getting measured for her Spain uniform.
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Her landmark 7-5 6-4 triumph in the final against world No1 Serena Williams was sealed by an inch-perfect lob on her fifth match point, with the 22-year-old becoming the first Spanish woman to win a Grand Slam since Arantxa Sanchez at the 1998 French Open.

Muguruza’s win in Paris took her up to second in the WTA Rankings. Though her place in the women’s singles competition at Rio 2016 is secure, she is hungry for more and is keen to line up in both the women’s and mixed doubles as well, the latter with Spain’s flag bearer Rafael Nadal, the 2008 Olympic men’s singles champion. 

“I would love to play all three disciplines at the Olympics, but Conchita will decide,” said Muguruza, in reference to former player Conchita Martinez, who is now Spain’s Fed and Davis Cup captain and will be selecting the country’s Olympic tennis team.

“She asked us what we had in mind, what we wanted to do,” added Muguruza. “Of course, she needed our views, and then she’s going to make the ultimate decisions regarding teams.”

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A nine-time French Open champion and a Career Golden Slam winner, Nadal is just as keen on the idea, having been prevented by injury from defending his Olympic title at London 2012, where he was due to carry the Spanish flag, an honour he will finally have in Rio. 

“Rafael wants to play in all three Olympic events,” said his uncle and coach Toni Nadal. “The [mixed doubles] team may not be as strong as [Switzerland’s] Martina Hingis and Roger Federer, but it can still be competitive.”

Playing for Spain
Born on 8 October 1993 in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, to a Spanish father and a Venezuelan mother, Muguruza moved to Spain at the age of six and trained at the Bruguera Tennis Academy in Barcelona. In October 2014, by which time she had developed into one of the brightest talents on the world circuit, she announced her decision to compete for Spain in international competitions. 

I want to experience how it feels to represent a country and to play not just for myself but for everyone. Garbiñe Muguruza Spain
“My family support the choice I’ve made,” she said at the time. “I want to experience how it feels to represent a country and to play not just for myself but for everyone.” 

Muguruza had begun to make her name as an 18-year-old wildcard at the 2012 Miami Open, where she beat the then world No2 Vera Zvonareva and Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. Though an ankle injury ruined her 2013 season, she came back with a bang the following year, beating Serena Williams in straight sets in the second round of the French Open and going on to reach the quarter-finals. 

In 2015, the Venezuelan-born player broke into the Top 10 for the first time. The youngest member of that elite group at the time, she won the China Open in Beijing that year and also finished runner-up to Williams in the Wimbledon final, an achievement that took her up to third in the world.

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Standing 1.82m tall, Muguruza is famed for her powerful serve and aggressive style, using her forceful groundstrokes and baseline rallying skills to dominate opponents, a potent cocktail that proved too much for Williams in this year’s French Open final and contrasts with the style of play of her forerunners Sanchez and Martinez. Spain’s last female tennis greats, they enjoyed their glory years in the 1990s and teamed up in the doubles to win Olympic silver at Barcelona 1992 and bronze at Atlanta 1996. 

Contemplating her opportunity to follow suit this year, Muguruza said: “I can’t wait for the Games to come, and the prospect of playing the mixed doubles with Rafa is especially exciting.”

The new star of women’s tennis, Muguruza will undoubtedly be one to watch in Rio. Eyeing the podium in the singles, she will also hope to vie for medals in the women’s doubles – where she is poised to resume an already successful partnership with compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro – and in the mixed doubles with Nadal. 

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