By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – Garbine Muguruza clinched a maiden Wimbledon title on Saturday with a stunning demolition of Venus Williams, whose dreams of a fairytale victory at the age of 37 were blown apart in a devastating second set.
Like many a brutal demise, the end was messy and at times uncomfortable to watch as the Spaniard cut loose after tense early exchanges, winning nine straight games to crush the demoralized American 7-5 6-0.
It was Muguruza’s second grand slam title to add to last year’s French Open and was indisputably deserved after she absorbed everything her opponent could throw at her before taking control and inflicting a punishing triple break in the final set.
She was robbed of the picture-perfect conclusion and forced to wait as Hawk-eye was called on to confirm that a mis-hit forehand from Venus had landed out before her emotional celebrations could begin.
It was the 23-year-old’s second Wimbledon final, having lost to Venus’s sister Serena on the same stage in 2015, and her legs gave way as she fell to the ground after the decision was relayed on Centre Court’s giant scoreboards.
“Two years ago I lost in the final to Serena and she told me one day I was going to maybe win and hey, two years after here I am,” she said courtside.
“I played very well since the first game, and I kept the level, which is very hard because, you’re nervous… I was just very composed,” she added later.
For Venus, who seemed to lack any sort of fight as the final blows were landed, it was a stinging reminder of her advancing years.
The five-times champion had last triumphed at the All England Club in 2008. She was looking to become the oldest woman to win a grand slam in the professional era and the most senior to triumph on Wimbledon’s lawns since 1908.
Having been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an illness that causes fatigue and joint pain, in 2011 and seen her ranking plummet to 103, her renaissance this year is still hugely impressive.
Yet her capitulation ensured a second grand slam final defeat of 2017, after she was also downed by her sister at the Australian Open.
“She played top tennis, so I have to give her credit for just playing a better match,” Venus said.
While it ended in a meek surrender, the first women’s final played under the Centre Court roof had begun as a tense duel between two of the game’s most powerful hitters, with a high-quality first set gradually building toward a captivating conclusion.
It included several tests of nerve for Muguruza, who showed an almost iron will not to give an inch even as Venus upped the aggression levels with ferocious intent.
Muguruza saved three break points, which included two tension-filled set points in the 10th game, the first of which saw the Spaniard emerge with a clenched fist from an epic 19-shot rally.
It was then her turn to go on the offensive. She crafted her third break point of the set when Venus netted a forehand and took her chance when the American sent a second forehand long after another lengthy exchange.
There were few clues in those opening games as to what was about to follow as having wrapped up the first set, Muguruza put her foot to the floor with astonishing brutality.
She broke on three straight occasions in the second set as Venus seemed to hit a mental and physical wall.
When the five-times winner could barely get her racket to a vicious forehand, it gave the Spaniard three match points, but in keeping with a messy second set, she needed two Hawk-eye challenges to put the beleaguered American out of her misery.
As the scoreboard showed the ball had bounced out at 40-30, she dropped her racket and fell to the ground, before covering her face in celebration.
After being handed the famous Rosewater Dish, Muguruza was asked if she had a message for her coach Sam Sumyk, who is absent as his wife is expecting a baby.
She held the gleaming plate aloft and said: “Here it is.”
(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ed Osmond)