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TENNIS

Football-crazy Muguruza ready to bask in the limelight

Garbiñe Muguruza is happy to steal the spotlight from fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal as the French Open champion sets her sights on a return to the Wimbledon final. Murray vs Wawrinka

Football-crazy Muguruza ready to bask in the limelight
Pool Getty Images

Garbiñe Muguruza says she is quite happy to steal the spotlight from fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal as she sets her sights on a return to the Wimbledon final.

Nadal's exploits traditionally hog the attention of tennis fans in Spain and across the world, but the 14-time Grand Slam winner is absent from Wimbledon this year due to the left wrist injury that forced him to pull out of the French Open. Muguruza's shock French Open final victory over world number one Serena Williams brought her a first Grand Slam crown at the venue where Nadal won nine times.

The 30-year-old's decline has coincided with the rise of Muguruza and the 22-year-old, whose engaging personality seems ready-made for celebrity, appears to be relishing the limelight. “I thought about that the other day when I saw that Rafa was not playing”, Muguruza told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.

“For sure, people are looking more at what I'm doing, will be watching me more but that's fine. It's a good sign. I like it. I'll try to do my best. I was so happy, finally this year, I did better than Nadal in French Open. I'm like, this is so weird”,

Muguruza arrived to her press conference proudly wearing the red shirt of the Spain national football team and revealed she has been eagerly following their progress at Euro 2016. Spain face Italy in the Last 16 on Monday and Muguruza will be tuning in if she's not on court at Wimbledon.

“I mean, in Spain, if you don't follow football, you're dead. You don't have conversation!”, she laughed. “Everybody is like, Did you see that goal? If I miss a goal, I cannot talk. I think Spain has a great team. I'm like, C'mon, guys, we got to win. I just have to show a little bit my support by wearing the Spanish jersey”.

Muguruza admits her French Open triumph has been a huge boost to her confidence after some erratic performances this year. In the 12 months since she was beaten by Serena in last year's Wimbledon final, Muguruza has lost seven times to players ranked outside the world's top 40 But success at Roland Garros confirmed her as the most exciting young talent in the women's game.

“Nothing has changed for me. I'm actually thinking that it's weird to be back here because of last year, not because I won a Grand Slam just two weeks ago”, she continued. “I was very relaxed (after Paris). I tried to not get crazy. I didn't do a lot of things, just went home for a couple days. I just have a good feeling, that I'm playing good, I won a lot of confidence. But just because I won the French Open doesn't mean I'm going to come here and win every match”.

Venezuela-born Muguruza's Wimbledon preparations have been less than ideal as she was beaten in the first round of her only warm-up tournament at last week's Mallorca Open by Kirsten Flipkens. Even taking last year's run to the final into consideration, she still finds grass a tricky surface to master.

“It's obviously very hard. I think it's one of the most difficult switch of surface. When I was younger, a lot of people were saying, I think you will play good on grass. I'm like, There's no way, I hate grass. I'm horrible. In time, I agree. I think my style of game helps. But I don't feel yet it's my comfort zone”, she concluded.