Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
A champion, said Billie Jean King, is afraid of losing; everyone else is afraid of winning.
With the great pioneer of the women’s game watching from the Royal Box, Garbiñe Muguruza and Venus Williams put on a fearless display of tennis which was as powerful as it was physically resourceful. So much was – justly – said in advance about the 37-year-old American’s extraordinary achievement of reaching her second Grand Slam final of the year; but sometimes in sport, it’s just someone else’s story. Wimbledon 2017 belongs to Muguruza.
This was the Spaniard’s first final in the 13 months since she won Roland Garros last year. She withstood an onslaught from the Venus forehand throughout the first set, and fended off two set points before snatching it herself; and with so much energy expended on that critical first set, Williams could not summon enough to be competitive in the second. With the roof closed for the first time in a ladies' singles final, the No.14 seed took it 7-5, 6-0 in one hour and 17 minutes.
A scintillating first set centred on Williams’ need to keep the rallies short, to preserve her energy. How much she will regret in retrospect allowing a break point to pass at 3-3; and how much more that, at 5-4, she held two points to capture that first set, which was so vital to her challenge here. Instead Muguruza - whose own forehand had been erratic all set - did not misfire when her own chance to break arose, and she forced the error.
As she served for the set, the cleanness of the ball striking was accentuated by the greenhouse acoustics, with each stroke a rifle crack. Muguruza's defence was relisient, and her competitive will tougher still. She brought up set point with such an exquisite lob that it merited the title all by itself. Then, just as the match promised so much more, the inexhaustible Venus was abruptly out of gas. Less than half an hour later, the contest was done.
Having plummeted from the world No.5 spot only last month on surrendering her Roland Garros title, Muguruza will bounce right back to that very same ranking as a result of her victory here.
Williams was the oldest finalist since Martina Navratilova 23 years ago. How curious it was that then, as now, an attempt to become the oldest winner of the title since Charlotte Cooper Sterry in 1908 should be stymied by a Spaniard. In 1994 it was Conchita Martinez – and in 2017 she was once again a pivotal influence, having assumed coaching duties for Muguruza at these Championships.
Watching her charge from the customary Centre Court territory of the players’ box, in this match as in others this Fortnight, she could be heard urging on Muguruza with cries of: “Grande!” – not only applause for a literal “big” shot, but more importantly an instruction to continue in that vein. It has worked so well here that only one opponent throughout The Championships has been able to unburden her of a set – Angelique Kerber, in their riveting fourth round encounter.
And yet still Williams’ gigantic feat here cannot be overlooked. The problem when attempting to present her achievements in digestible form is simply this… where on earth to start? Already the owner of so many gasp-making tennis facts, she has grabbed shoals more in this, her 20th Wimbledon and 75th Grand Slam. In this match she was bidding for SW19 victory number 88, in her 16th Grand Slam final; and having been Australian Open runner-up, this was the first time she has reached two Slam finals in a calendar year since her salad days of 2003.
But not for nothing is the Spanish national motto “plus ultra” – literally, further beyond. Watched from the Royal Box by King Juan Carlos de Borbon, who stepped down from the Spanish throne in favour of his son Felipe three years ago, Muguruza saw a Venus forehand sail long, and sank to her knees in tears. The Wimbledon crown is hers. Her reign as champion here has begun.