Garbine Muguruza retires with legacy secured but she could have achieved even more

Former world No 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion announced her retirement aged 30

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The last time The National spoke with Garbine Muguruza, she described her tennis career as a "rollercoaster". That was on the eve of the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open in February 2023 and the Spaniard, once the best player in the world, was attempting to piece her career back together after a curious and alarming collapse in form.

Muguruza had arrived in the capital ranked outside the top 80 following a 2022 campaign that saw her win just 12 matches. There had been no major injury setbacks, just a crisis of confidence made all the more mysterious given her highly successful 2021.

She had collected three significant titles that previous season, ending a two-year trophy drought by winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, then won another WTA 500 at the Chicago Open, before signing off the year with a triumph at the prestigious WTA Finals.

Back at world No 3 and heading into the 2022 season on a high, it appeared Muguruza had fully reset having shown promising signs of revival in 2020 following a gradual decline in 2018 and 2019 that saw her slip out of the top 30.

The latest dip, though, proved irreversible. Following the disaster of 2022, Muguruza told The National she was taking a "calm and simple" approach to 2023 having "put myself under a lot of pressure" the previous season.

That didn't seem to work either, as Muguruza began the year with four straight defeats before withdrawing from Abu Dhabi and announcing an extended hiatus.

Well, that hiatus has now transformed into retirement, the two-time Grand Slam champion announcing on Saturday that she has officially brought the "rollercoaster" to a permanent halt.

“I feel that it is time to retire and open up a new chapter in my life,” she told a press conference in Madrid. “The word ‘retirement’ sounds very harsh because I am only 30 years old, but I have achieved so much since I started playing 25 years ago.

“If 25 years ago, when I started hitting my first tennis balls, someone had told me that I would become a professional tennis player, that I would fulfil my dream of winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon, that I would become No 1 in the world and win the WTA Finals … I would have thought this person was crazy.

“I am proud of what I have achieved, for having stuck to reaching my goals even through the tough times."

It would be fascinating to be inside Muguruza's mind as she now takes the opportunity to reflect on her career. There is indeed a large body of work to be proud of; the 10 career titles, including two Grand Slams; the four weeks spent at world No 1; the $25 million earned in prize money.

The big breakthrough came in 2016 when a 22-year-old Muguruza, already ranked world No 4, upset Serena Williams to clinch the French Open title. The following year, she became a two-time major winner by winning Wimbledon, beating Venus Williams in the final.

In doing so, Muguruza became the only player to beat both Williams sisters in Grand Slam finals.

That's how good she was at the height of her powers – a player capable of conquering the two greatest players of a generation on the biggest stages. Muguruza had power and athleticism, but also guile and touch. Few weaknesses could be detected in a genuinely all-court player.

And yet, given her generational talents, one must wonder if Muguruza feels she could and perhaps should have accomplished even more; that her monster potential wasn't entirely maximised.

“When she was at her best, the forehand was working, the backhand was solid as a rock. Epic serve and good at net. She had all the bases covered," 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova said. "When she was on, she dominated. It was just surprising she didn’t dominate more.”

But when Muguruza took to the Laureus Sports Awards stage to announce her retirement on Saturday, grinning ear to ear, she looked completely at peace with her decision; any career-related regrets she might have had seemed banished as she looks ahead to the next stage, including her summer wedding to partner Arthur Blanco.

“I have grown and matured in a very different way than what can be considered normal,” Muguruza said. “Now I am ready to start a new chapter in my life."

Updated: April 21, 2024, 10:10 AM