Martinez proving her worth as Muguruza marches on

Conchita Martinez's experience is having the desired effect for Garbine Muguruza after she booked a place in the Wimbledon final.
Conchita Martinez's experience is having the desired effect for Garbine Muguruza after she booked a place in the Wimbledon final.

Garbine Muguruza's French Open title defence epitomised the first half of her season in 2017.

The Spaniard made good on her early career potential to make a major breakthrough at Roland Garros in 2016, downing the great Serena Williams having lost to her American foe almost a year earlier in the Wimbledon final.

Victory in Paris propelled Muguruza to a career-high ranking of world number two and it seemed to all that had the pleasure of watching her play that more grand slam titles would quickly follow.

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And yet, there was a lull in form and confidence. Just three times, prior to Wimbledon, had Muguruza made a semi-final this year.

The inconsistencies in her game reared their head on a return to Roland Garros as a fourth-round defeat to Kristina Mladenovic saw her slip to the mediocrity of world number 15.

But then the amiable 23-year-old made the inspired decision to bring compatriot Conchita Martinez into her coaching team – a choice that is now paying dividends at SW19 as a 6-1 6-1 demolition of the unfancied Magdalena Rybarikova saw her cruise into Saturday's final.

Martinez was hired by Muguruza ahead of Wimbledon to fill the void left by her normal coach Sam Sumyk – who is absent ahead of the birth of his first child.

Muguruza could have made the easy choice and stuck with the familiarity of her normal team and kept Sumyk on speed dial for daily briefings.

Instead, she enlisted the help of her country's only female Wimbledon champion in an attempt to go one better than her 2015 effort when Williams, at the peak of her powers, overawed Muguruza.

Thus far, it has proved a shrewd move as a confident Muguruza has steamrollered to the final, dropping just one set – that against soon-to-be former world number one Angelique Kerber.

If her match against Rybarikova – who had already dumped out pre-tournament favourite and the woman who will replace Kerber at the top of the rankings Karolina Pliskova – had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped well before the end.

It will, undoubtedly, be an all-together different challenge in the final against Serena's sister Venus Williams, who at 37 is defying the logic of time to go in search of a sixth Wimbledon title.

There are plenty of reasons for optimism, though, given her upturn in form under the tutelage of 1994 champion Martinez. 

Last year, the expectations at SW19 were high and the pressure seemingly told as she was dumped out by Jana Cepelova in round two.

Fast forward 12 months and it was difficult to assess Muguruza's chances. She showed signs of promise with a semi-final run in Birmingham, but was knocked out in round by Barbora Strycova in Eastbourne.

But there has been no doubting that her confidence has returned with a vengeance at the All England Club. Her serve has its venom back, her backhand is reliable once more and she is reading the game as well as ever before.

And the presence of Martinez – her Fed Cup captain – should not be underestimated. 

Her experience on grass is an undoubted bonus and her ability to understand the pressures that come with going deep in a grand slam are also invaluable.

Muguruza said as much in her post-match interview on Thursday, saying: "I think she [Martinez] is helping me to deal with the stress of the tournament, because it's a long tournament. 

"She just knows how to prepare, how to train, what to do.

"Not that I'm doing something different, honestly. But to have her by my side gives me also this little confidence on having someone that has won before.

"I think a lot of things are also clicking with her and the team this week, so it's very nice."

Of course, Muguruza has won nothing yet. Her fine form throughout the tournament will count for nothing if she loses to Williams.

But Martinez, whose own triumph came against the legendary Martina Navratilova, is a valuable asset to have in her corner.

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