There was a time, in the second set, when the tiara slipped a little on the head of the princess of women’s tennis.
Garbiñe Muguruza, who won the French Open this month to become the newest, shiniest grand slam winner, had her service broken in the last game of the set, which she lost 7-5.
However, the woman tipped to become the game’s next No1 suddenly remembered her royal appointment and the languid power of her game returned in the final set, which she won 6-4 against the eye-catching Camila Giorgi; a Spaniard beating an Italian atoned in part for a football match that was unfolding at the same time.
After being beaten by Serena Williams in last year’s Wimbledon final Muguruza said she did not realise the pressure that was involved and in the second set on Monday it was as if she had not considered the weight of coming to these lawns as the champion of France.
The royal associations are not inappropriate for there is a regality in her style, a monarch’s poise in her measured manner. She is a six-footer but looks even taller with her thrown-back shoulders and her head tossed high as if to catch a scent of the strawberries and cream.
Spanish, though born in Caracas, Venezuela, she was brought up on slow, red courts, where top-spinners prosper, far away from the fizz and speed of the grass at SW19. But, surprisingly for one with such a background, she takes the ball early and hits it with disarming strength, usually from the baseline, which is the workbench of her game.
After her win in Paris, her first in the grand slam tournaments, she has come here as second seed and second favourite behind Williams. She has got the monkey off her straight back and will take some stopping.
Giorgi had the temerity to suggest she might beat her. If you filmed a match involving Giorgi, and cut out the bad bits, you could convince someone she was a top-10 player. She hits dazzling, attacking strokes that can make even leading players flat-footed. She is also good enough to have been seeded 31st here last year, though her ranking is far below that now, at 67.
The trouble with Giorgi girl, who is 24, is that she is inconsistent enough to make her supporters tear their hair out in clumps. Last year she served 458 double faults, more than anyone else on the WTA tour. That is 916 faults in all – not counting the single faults.
On Monday her eight doubles were only two more than Muguruza’s but they were still extremely harmful. Her game is based on hitting the ball flat and hard, a rather guileless approach against a superior player who might have been troubled by a little more variation. Instead Muguruza appeared to relish the ball coming on to her racket at speed, for it seemed to exaggerate the considerable power of her own game.
Muguruza, the first Spanish woman to reach a Wimbledon final since Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in 1996, broke Giorgi’s first two service games but was broken herself in between. But Muguruza broke again to go 5-2 up and won the opening set 6-2 in 42 minutes.
Giorgi lifted her game in the second but her triumph owed as much to the Spaniard’s serve, which collapsed as if it had been punctured. She put 50% of her first serves in. While 47% of her first serves in the first set were not returned, that figure slumped to 18% in the second set.
The turning point in the third set came in the third game. It lasted 10 minutes as Giorgi survived five break points before losing the sixth. After that Muguruza served out for the match and victory had taken her a shade over two and a half hours.
“Wimbledon is a very tricky tournament because the grass can sometimes give you a surprise,” she said. “It’s not like on clay, where you get more time. There, you can survive more. Here, right away, you are in danger. It’s faster. You have to be more concentrated.
“Sometimes you don’t win the beautiful way. You’ve got to be there fighting and waiting for your chance, especially against a player who bangs the ball. Camila was a very tough opponent to begin the tournament.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010