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Tennis

Q&A with Garbine Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza serves in her third round match against Caroline Wozniacki during day six of the 2014 Australian Open in January 2014. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Garbine Muguruza serves in her third round match against Caroline Wozniacki during day six of the 2014 Australian Open in January 2014.

It's been a breakout year for 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza. After an ankle fracture prematurely ended her 2013 season, the Venezuelan-born Spaniard started 2014 by winning her first WTA title at the Hobart International, where she played and won eight matches as a qualifier without dropping a set all week. A week later she made the fourth round of the Australian Open by beating Caroline Wozniacki, and then reached her second WTA final a month later in Brazil. 

But her biggest feat came in May, where she handed No. 1 Serena Williams one of her worst losses at a major, defeating the defending champion 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the French Open en route to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

SI.com recently caught up with the bubbly Spaniard to talk about brownies, Beyonce, and why she's not here to make friends. She's here to win. 

SI.com: When was the first time you knew you were good at tennis? How old were you?

Muguruza: The first time was when I started to play the national tournaments in Spain. I won the national championship of Spain and then I realized, oh ok [I'm pretty good]. Then the next year I won again. [I was] 12 or 13.

SI.com: How do you look back on your junior career?

Muguruza: I didn't play juniors really. I only played Roland Garros juniors and maybe some European tournaments. I don't know, my coach always said to me if you want to play the real tour then play the ITFs and the Futures. You can play juniors sometimes to see what your level is but go to the real circuit and play the ITFs.

SI.com: How difficult was that? If you played junior tournaments you probably would have won more matches. Jumping straight to the professional level means you probably had to learn how to lose.

Muguruza: It was tough when you're so small to win matches in the ITFs. But it was just a matter of time.

SI.com: What's your favorite tournament?

Muguruza: I think Miami. It was the first time I won some matches and I got the wildcard. Everything was new for me. I was like "Oh my god, I'm playing a big tournament, a Premier tournament."

SI.com: Do you remember your first WTA tournament?

Muguruza: Yes. It was in Barcelona in 2008. And I lost in the first round of course so I don't want to talk about that too much [laughs].

SI.com: But you remember it.

Muguruza: I remember it. I got a wildcard also and I went there and I was playing against someone ranked 100 something or 200 and I was like "Oh my god, for sure I'm not gonna win." [Muguruza lost to No. 236 Maria Kondratieva 7-5, 6-0]

SI.com: Do you remember the first time you walked around the WTA locker room and were wowed by the players?

Muguruza: I think it was Miami in 2012. I went in and I saw at all these players I didn't know. But when I saw [Maria] Sharapova and Serena [Williams] I was like "Wow, we're in the same tournament. She's in the locker room next to me. Can you move your bag, Serena?" [joking/laughing] It was special. 

SI.com: Some players say the WTA locker room is very collegial. Others say it's a lonely place. How have you found it?

Muguruza: I always talk about this with my family. The problem we have in the WTA circuit is that the girls do not have a good relationship because we play against each other and it's a sport. It's a competition. So you feel really lonely. That's why you want to make your team -- your physio, your coach, your family, your friends -- because you actually don't have friends in the circuit. So this is the hardest part. You travel every week and you just wave hello [to the other players] and that's it. It's tough.

SI.com: Some players are able to be friends and still compete hard.

Muguruza: It depends on the person. Normally you don't have a good relationship with so many players. Because at the end, I know I'm playing tomorrow against you. I mean, hello? So for me it's normal. Just hello, goodbye.

SI.com: Who is in your entourage?

Muguruza: I always travel with my coach and with my physio. And then when I'm in Europe my parents maybe they come to events. And that's it.

SI.com: Who did you look up to growing up?

Muguruza: When I was young I looked up to Martina Hingis. But when I started to watch more tennis it was Serena because she was No. 1 for, I don't know, when I was born she was No. 1.

SI.com: So do you watch a lot of tennis?

Muguruza: I watch it but if I turn on the TV and someone is playing I don't watch the match. I usually go to YouTube to watch the important moments or the last game of the final. 

SI.com: Tennis matches can be very long.

Muguruza: One hour and a half? Pfft. I saw her play ten times. Why? I see them every week. 

SI.com: Are you superstitious?

Muguruza: The only thing is I never look at the draw. I remember it was three years ago. I couldn't play my first round because in the second round I was playing I don't know who. And I said ok, this cannot happen. I cannot be thinking about who I am going to play if I win. I was too nervous. So I said never again. I will never see another draw.

SI.com: Is that easy to do?

Muguruza: No. Sometimes someone comes and tells you, 'Hey you're playing -- shut up!'

SI.com: What's your favorite shot?

Muguruza: Backhand down the line.

SI.com: If you could take a selfie with anyone, who would it be?

Muguruza: Someone so famous for sure. And not from tennis. I cannot say Lindsay Lohan. [laughs]

SI.com: I've heard people say Justin Bieber...

Muguruza: Oh, no no no no no.

SI.com: I've heard people say Ryan Gosling, Beyonce...

Muguruza: Oh, Beyonce. That's a good one. I say Beyonce.

SI.com: Happiest moment on court?

Photo: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Muguruza shakes hands with Serena Williams at the end of their French tennis Open second round match at the Roland Garros stadium in May 2014.

Muguruza: When I beat Serena at Roland Garros. I was like I did it. Because I've seen Serena since I was a child. Every day watching her serve, her backhand, her volley, everything. So when I beat her I was like 'finally.'

SI.com: I remember you turned around immediately to look at your box on match point. Were they going crazy?

Muguruza: They were calm. Because if you go too crazy then you forget you have to play again tomorrow.

SI.com: What's your favorite app?

Muguruza: Twitter.

SI.com: Do you follow a lot of people?

Muguruza: Yes I follow a lot of people. I like to write things so people know what I'm doing. Because I follow people to know what they are doing. Like oh, they're in the swimming pool. I like to know what they're doing. So I think the people who follow me also want the same.

SI.com: If you could replay any match, which would it be?

Muguruza: Yes. I think last round of qualies in Roland Garros in 2012 [Muguruza lost 6-0, 7-6 (6) to Lara Arruabuena]. I played a disaster against another Spanish girl. And we were very good friends. It was a disaster.

SI.com: So you really do feel the difference when you play against a friend vs. a non-friend.

Muguruza: Not anymore because you don't want to get close to players or else that happens again.

SI.com: If you could improve your game mentally, physically, or tactically right now, which would it be? And in what way?

Muguruza: Mentally. In the way to control the emotions. It's difficult when you're winning easy and you can see you can finish the match, or when you're losing easy too. For me it's very important part in the match is to be calm.

SI.com: Are you emotional on court? It doesn't seem like it.

Muguruza: Yes. I work on this, to give the impression that I'm calm. But I am not calm.

SI.com: So what do you do to take your mind off of tennis?

Muguruza: I like to dance, and sing, and cook, and to be with the iPad.

SI.com: What's your favorite thing to cook?

Muguruza: I only cook sweets. Anything with sugar, not with salt. Cakes and cookies. Oreo brownie is the best one. 

SI.com: So do you bake it and then just give it away? I can't imagine you can eat all those sweets.

Muguruza: Yeah. I just take a little bit and then give it away. My brother eats it all. 

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