Wimbledon 2016: Can Garbine Muguruza be the new face of women's tennis?

Garbine Muguruza attends the annual WTA pre-Wimbledon party Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Muguruza arriving at the annual WTA pre-Wimbledon party

The triumph of Garbine Muguruza at the French Open final in May has been heralded as a new era for women's tennis, with the smiling Spaniard being seen as a natural successor to superstars Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

At Roland Garros, as at Wimbledon last year when she was runner-up, Muguruza has caught the attention of both fans and the media for her power and athleticism on the court, and her breezy demeanour off it.

Such a combination leaves the charismatic 22-year-old well placed not only for a successful playing career, but also as a potential favourite for sponsors.

"Her reach can be universal," says Fernando Soler, head of the tennis division at her agents IMG. "The goal is to turn Garbine into a global star and she is helping herself with her on court performance."

'Power and tenacity'

Indeed, work on creating her brand and commercial appeal has already been under way for two years, since her first tournament win, at the Hobart International in January 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Spaniard uses kit supplied by Adidas and Babolat

With Maria Sharapova facing the prospect of having her two-year ban for doping being upheld, and Serena Williams nearing, by tennis standards, the veteran stage, her representatives believe she can emulate those two both on and off the court.

After her 7-5 6-4 win over Williams in Paris, US legend Chris Evert told Eurosport viewers "a star is born right here", comparing her game to that of Jennifer Capriati for its "power, style of play, and tenacity".

And one US sports business magazine has named the WTA world number two the 14th most marketable athlete in the world over the next three years.

Muguruza is currently the face of Adidas by Stella McCartney, has a deal with racquet firm Babolat, and other partnerships with BBVA Bank and sunglasses line Maui Jim. Meanwhile, her team are in conversations with a range of firms on other potential sponsor deals.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption All smiles, despite defeat in the 2015 Wimbledon final

"We are trying to build the right platform for Garbine," Soler says. "We are being very selective in terms of brands we partner with, and it is important that the brand is a good fit and Garbine has a passion for the brand.

"It is important to get the foundation right for an athlete at this very delicate stage in her career."


According to Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at Salford University, women's tennis has a vacancy for a "new leading brand", one that he says Muguruza, the number two seed at Wimbledon, could fill.

"The time is right for a new global face of women's tennis, and this could potentially be her. The fact she is of Spanish origin potentially opens up the Hispanic world, including Spanish-speaking communities in the US.

"And as well as being a strong player she also has a femininity, which is important to a certain type of sponsor."

Who is Garbine Muguruza?

Image copyright Getty Images
  • Born in Caracas, Venezuela, on 8 October 1993 to Venezuelan mother and Spanish father
  • Moved to Spain at age 6
  • Coached at academy owned by two-time French Open winner Sergi Bruguera
  • Lives in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Turned professional in 2011
  • Earned $8.8m (£6m) in prize money to date
  • Enjoys cooking, reading and listening to music
  • Won her first Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open (pictured with trophy above )

'Quality over quantity'

Soler says that as well as being attractive to sponsors for her sporting prowess, she also has a "very likeable" personality, traits her team have been highlighting for two-and-a-half years now.

"People always think that the minute a player wins a big tournament that is when the work with the sponsors starts," he says.

"But in reality it starts years before that. We have been making sure that... since Garbine won her first tournament we have been educating sponsors on who she is and keeping them in the loop with her progress."

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Media captionWimbledon 2016: Getting to know Garbine Muguruza

He says there is a delicate balancing act that needs to be achieved, between allowing the player enough time to focus on travelling, training and competing at the top level, and her commercial obligations.

"Quality over quantity is the formula here," he says. "We want to make sure we are using her time wisely when working with sponsors, which is why partnering with the right brands is optimal, so that both parties can get the best out of each other."

'No nonsense'

One of the commercial benefits of being a tennis player is the global reach of the sport and worldwide interest in its top stars.

This year Muguruza will play in about 20 tournaments across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Garbine Muguruza models a dress by Stella McCartney

She will receive extensive fan and media attention around those events, particularly during the four Grand Slams, appearing not only in the sports pages but also the fashion and lifestyle ones.

For example, during the French Open, fashion bible Vogue analysed her hair, dubbing it the "best bombshell hair" in women's tennis, praising her for the same "no-nonsense tack" she brings to both her flowing locks and the game.

'Remaining authentic'

While men's tennis in Spain has flourished in recent years, most notably with the success of Rafael Nadal, the country has lacked a serious female contender since the days of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez in the 1990s.

"Ultimately her strongest market will be in Spain and Europe, but she is also very popular in South America as her mother is from Venezuela," says Soler.

Her commercial potential should receive another boost later this year when she represents Spain at the Rio Olympics, spreading her reach further into South America.

The player is a keen user of social media and even has her own app - - which she is very active on. Social media allows her to "remain authentic" to fans, says Soler.

The WTA player of the month for May, Muguruza aims to go one better at Wimbledon and win this year.

"That is the goal and the dream," says Soler.

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