Serena Williams has revenge on her mind as the world number one aims to end the fairytale run of Garbine Muguruza in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.
Serena Williams was plunged into a prolonged bout of soul-searching after an embarrassing 6-2, 6-2 thrashing against Muguruza in the French Open second round last year.
That humbling loss forced her to reevaluate her game and the 33-year-old American’s response has been blistering.
Determined to reassert her superiority, Serena Williams has since won three of the four available Grand Slam titles.
And in a fitting twist, she has the opportunity to make amends for her Paris pain when she takes on Muguruza for just the second time since their meeting at Roland Garros.
“It was an eye-opening loss for me. Some losses you’re angry about, and some losses you learn from. That loss I think I learned the most from in a long time,” Serena said.
“I got so much better after that loss. It was really an experience that helped me say, Okay, Serena, you want to be the best, you’re going to have to do certain things and you’re going to have to improve certain things.”
As if winning the sixth Wimbledon title and 21st major of her career wouldn’t be enough to underline Serena Williams’ credentials as one of the all-time greats, she has a slew of other milestones within reach in her 25th Grand Slam final.
After demolishing Maria Sharapova to move into her eighth Wimbledon final, Serena, who has a remarkable 38-1 record in 2015, is just one victory away from holding all four major titles at the same time — a rare feat she last achieved in 2002-03.
A win over surprise finalist Muguruza would also make her the first woman to land the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since she last achieved the double in 2002.
Perhaps most significantly, lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for the first time since 2012 would leave Serena Williams needing only to defend the US Open to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to claim a calendar Grand Slam.
But rather than dwell on those legacy-defining possibilities, Serena Williams made it clear the only reason she is in such a privileged position is because she no longer frets about her place in the pantheon of tennis greats.
“I don’t want the pressure of that. It’s been okay just to free my brain,” she said.
Serena Williams is heavily favoured to defeat Muguruza, a Grand Slam final debutant who has just one tour-level title compared to Serena’s 67.
But the superstitious world number 20, who has banned her parents from flying in from Barcelona for the final, has emerged as a future star over the last fortnight.
Muguruza’s tense three-set win over Polish 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the last four made her the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1996.
Conchita Martinez was the last Spanish women’s champion in 1994.
And Muguruza, Venezuela-born and Barcelona-raised, says beating Serena in Paris and pushing her to three sets before losing in the Australian Open this year, shows she has no reason to fear the American.
“Roland Garros will help me a lot because every time you play these important matches, you feel, ‘Okay, I’ve been here before. I know what I have to do’,” the 21-year-old said.
“To have Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final is the hardest match you can have.
“But if you want to win a Grand Slam, when you dream, you say, I want to beat Serena Williams in the final.”