By Richard Osborn
The invitations have been streaming in for Venezuelan-turned-Spaniard Garbine Muguruza since raising the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen toward the heavens last year at Roland Garros. It’s the kind of next-level attention you attract when you transition from touring pro to Grand Slam champion.
For instance, only days before heading to Indian Wells, the World No. 7 was hobnobbing with the likes of newly elected Hall of Famer Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Martin Del Potro, Venus Williams and others at the 10th Annual BNP Paribas Showdown, a World vs. Americas exo hosted by one of New York City’s most hallowed venues, The Garden. Joe Louis fought here. Elvis Presley sang here. The Knicks, the Rangers each call MSG home.
“I felt like a rock star,” said the 23-year-old Muguruza. “You're in Madison Square Garden. There’s a room with all the historical moments and stuff. You feel, like, ‘Wow, I'm here, I’m part of this. I'm going to play here.' It was an honor to be there.”
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But with all these spotlight moments also comes pressure.
“It’s very tricky, because everybody is waiting: ‘When are you going to win the next one?’ That's the classic,” she explained. “But it's actually very difficult.”
However, as she rises in the WTA Tour rankings, so, too, do her own expectations.
“I think it's a privilege, first of all, to feel like this,” she said. “And once you taste the sweet honey, you want more of that. Obviously, every time I go to a Grand Slam, I'm super excited. You know it’s a huge tournament. You're more motivated.”
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A Brisbane semifinal and Australian Open quarterfinal are among Muguruza’s results thus far in 2017. And she arrived at the BNP Paribas Open brimming with confidence. Of course, at this rock-star level, you have to have that unconditional inner-belief, that swagger, in order to remain at the top of the sport.
“Every time I play a tournament I see myself holding a trophy, for sure,” said Muguruza, who’ll next face the upset-minded American teen Kayla Day in the third round. “I want to believe always I'm one of these women who can win.”