Garbiñe Muguruza in her own words
We spoke to Garbiñe Muguruza, who starts the Madrid Open as third seed due to Williams dropping out, as she looks to win in the Spanish capital.
We caught up with Garbiñe Muguruza ahead of her opening Madrid Open match against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Sunday (Muguruza won two sets to love, 6-2, 7-5).
The Spanish tennis star, currently world number four, opened up about dealing with her rise to the top of the game, her chances in Madrid and choosing to play for Spain.
You’re coming back to Madrid no longer one of those players that might have a chance. You’re number four in the world, a rising star, a Wimbledon finalist. How are you dealing with that transition?
It doesn’t really hit you at first. In my case it’s been a case of taking it gradually day-by-day. But really nothing changes. Everything has worked out so far. You're touted more as a favourite and you hear murmurs of ‘let’s see how Garbiñe does’… but not much more than that.
Serena is missing, which might open up the tournament a little…
Serena missing does perhaps change perceptions of who the favourite is. Others come into the equation as contenders. But in reality things don’t change that much. At this level you can lose every game you play.
Is the Madrid Open are tournament that particularly appeals to you, just over a year since you officially committed to playing for Spain?
It’s a special tournament that can test your nerves for many reasons. Right now it’s the only major women’s tournament in Spain, at least until the Mallorca Open starts up. You cross greats like Roger Federer in the hallways and also it’s at altitude. Playing at that kind of altitude (657 metres above sea level) is always a challenge and something new.
What appeals more to you, winning a Grand Slam or representing Spain at the Olympics? Is that something you’ve considered when making big decisions?
Winning a Grand Slam is a big thing for a tennis player. But I thought a lot about the Olympics when making my decision to play for Spain. I was excited, I’ve never experienced something like that before. It’s something that comes about every four years and I felt…
What did you feel?
I felt like I needed to establish an identity, like I needed a base. It was a necessity. And the support has been overwhelming. The support I felt in Lleida, for example, when we played the Fed Cup against Italy. Wherever you play there’s always a flag, there are always Spanish people supporting me.
Here you’ll play doubles with Carla Suárez again. Will you play mixed doubles with Rafa Nadal in Rio?
Playing with Carla is something that excites us both. Looking forward to Rio, it’s great that Rafa will be our flag bearer. It’s a way of recognizing his achievements, especially as he couldn’t be our flag bearer in London in 2012. Whether we play doubles in Rio isn’t up to me, I think that’s up to Conchita Martínez. I’ll keep my eye out and see what happens. But obviously I’d love to play doubles with Rafa Nadal, just as everybody else in the world would.
You like the NBA, don’t you? You even went to Chicago to watch Bulls games.
Yes. I also watched Kobe Bryant’s final game. But I also really enjoy watching Messi. Sometimes you just want something different. Too much tennis…