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Garbine Muguruza’s Fed Cup Dilemma

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Originally published on 08/10/14

Her shock upset of Serena Williams in the French Open this year stands out, the 6-2 6-2 defeat being the American’s heaviest ever in a Grand Slam, but she has also beaten a host of other top ten players, including Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic.

However, a pressing concern weighs on Muguruza’s shoulders: which nationality to represent. She was born in Venezuela to a Spanish father and Venezuelan mother before moving to Barcelona aged six and is a proud dual-citizen. Officially recognised as Spanish by the WTA, she knows she has to make a decision quickly on who to play for in the Fed Cup.

“I think I’m going to do it in November, in the off season,” she said. “It’s difficult. My family, half is in Spain and half is in Venezuela. “Someone’s going to hate me so I don’t want to choose.”

Muguruza is currently ranked world No.22, one short of her career-high ranking and four places behind Spanish No.1 Carla Suarez Navarro. Muguruza’s decision may be made easier by the doubles success the pair have enjoyed together; they reached the semi-finals at the French Open and won the title in Stanford.

“We are good because she has what I don’t have,” Muguruza said of her doubles partner. “She’s older than me, more experienced, more calm, and has a totally different style of play. I hit strong, I serve big. Together we’re a good couple.”

Spain’s Fed Cup team does not boast the same number of top players as the men’s, and this partnership could help them return to the World Group I following relegation by Poland this year.

It is surprising that Spanish male players take up a fifth of the world’s top 50 while there has not been a real female inspiration since the days of Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

“In Spain we have so many boys,” said Muguruza. “The Spanish are not so interested in the girls as we are not running the world like Rafa. We have good girls, but not like the boys.”

However, the Venezuelan federation is also keen to boast a world-class player in their ranks, and if she chose to play for them she would be following a familiar path. Both her older brothers, Asier and Igor, earned ATP rankings while playing for Venezuela, and it is they who inspired Garbine to first take up the sport.

Muguruza played at the Sergi Brugera academy as a child, and like many Spanish-based players largely avoided the junior circuit. She only played a handful of junior matches and didn’t break the top 300, instead her coaches pushed her through senior ITF and future events from the age of 15.

It was tough having to deal with regular defeat against seasoned professionals, but Mugureza had enough maturity and natural power to break into the higher echelons. After steadily rising up the rankings she exploded onto the scene in January this year, winning the Hobart International without dropping a set for her first WTA title. Having broken into the top 50 for the first time she then reached the Australian Open fourth round, before her giant-killing exploits en route to the French Open quarter-finals.

Whoever inherits Muguruza’s talents will have a player equally competitive on court and relaxed off it. She missed the whole second half of 2013 following ankle surgery and practised every day to ensure her rampant start to this year. However, she also tweets regularly about non-tennis subjects and loves to bake cakes and cookies.

With no ranking points to defend in the second half of the year, there is little pressure on court for Muguruza. This can only help as the decision on her national identity looms ever closer.

Garbine Muguruza features in the October 2014 issue (Volume 5 Issue 5) of tennishead as Dave Sammel analyses the 21-year-old's forehand. Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.

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