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The moment of victory, captured on the giant screens around the arena, will stay with those of us who were there for a long time. Garbine Muguruza’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open in disbelief as she realised that she had won the French Open, defeating arguably the greatest of all women’s tennis champions, Serena Williams, in the final on Saturday.
In a year of unlikely sporting triumphs, this was another dramatic story, one that played with the audience’s emotions from start to finish at the magnificent Court Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros. There, I and a small number of industry colleagues were guests of fashion brand Lacoste and its superb Asia Pacific team led by Erin Lillis-Arrowsmith and Vincent Allard, plus regional CEO Jean-Louis Delamarre.
22 year old Spaniard Muguruza had been on top for much of the match, but had dropped in a (tennis) net full of double faults under pressure, and let slip four match points in the penultimate game as the winning post neared.
At that point, with Serena suddenly rediscovering her old self, you feared for the young pretender as she sat, head covered by a towel, in the break between games. Would memories of last year’s Wimbledon final, when she lost to the same opponent, paralyse her now?
We needn’t have worried. In a magnificent display of attacking tennis, our new hero Garbine stood up with purpose to serve out the match, ending it with an exquisite lob that fell, as if in slow motion, over Serena’s head and just on the service line, prompting Muguruza to collapse with emotion to the ground.
Serena, it should be said, spoke beautifully afterwards, congratulating her opponent on her victory. Unlike at some other arenas around the world, she is a firm favourite here, with a French coach and a fine grasp of the language.
Our host Lacoste received plenty of invaluable attention too in return for its big investment in these championships, a vital event for the French brand. The famous crocodile icon was on display in front of the linesmen and women around the court, as well as on the giant screens around the venue, ensuring a high profile through the world’s media.
That profile will have risen sharply on Saturday, with the world watching as the dreams of a young Spanish woman came true by the Bois de Boulogne.