LONDON, England - If grass is the original surface of tennis, and a direct link to the vicars' tea parties that grew the sport in the nineteenth century, it is also a modern-day reminder to Garbiñe Muguruza of the power of positive thinking.
Just as soon as Muguruza put on her grass-court shoes for the summer, she put a little distance on the tearful, clay-smeared angst of the French Open, where her title defence ended in the fourth round. Every time she walks on to a lawn, she spools back to the summer of 2015 when, to the surprise of others, and to her own astonishment, she played in a Wimbledon final. One way of explaining that improbable run is to appreciate what a clear, positive mindset can do for your tennis.
Previously, Muguruza hadn't been so keen on grass, thinking the bounce of the ball was "weird", and had never gone beyond the second round at the All England Club. But that summer, aged just 21, she resolved to think positively. Put that mentality together with the oomph in Muguruza's serve and groundstrokes, and you had a new force on the lawns. It took Serena Williams to stop her.
"Every time I step on a grass court, I think about that Wimbledon final, and of course those memories give me confidence when playing on what can be tricky surface," the Spaniard said ahead of her first match at the Aegon International, where she will face Barbora Strycova. "What I remember about Wimbledon that year is that I never thought before that I could play on grass. When the tournament started I was thinking, 'Yes, grass, they only really play on this in England, and it's special and it's legendary, but I don't really know how to play on it'. But then I thought, 'Do you know what? I'm just going to go out there and play my game'.
"I didn't want to think that I couldn't do it and I didn't want to have any negative thoughts in my head. My confidence grew and grew and I ended up reaching the final. That made me think, 'Hey, just forget about negativity, just play your game and see what happens'. I surprised myself."
Each victory at the tournament came as a pleasant surprise. "After the first round I was like, 'Oh, I won a match on grass, that's good'. And then it was like, 'Oh, I won two' and then, 'Oh, I won three'.
Muguruza could never have imagined that her first appearance in a Grand Slam final would come on grass.
"Once I reached the final I thought I would just go for it and I remember just going out there with the flowers and everyone is quiet when you walk on the court. All those things made me realise I had thought about that moment so many times before and then suddenly there I was in the final of Wimbledon, the most important tournament we have," said Muguruza.
"I've watched a few of the incredible points back. I remember how the crowd, even though I lost, really clapped and gave me an ovation when I received the trophy for being the runner-up. I cried, and not because I lost, but because of the people, the crowd."
The switch from clay to grass is always a challenging one, even for a former Wimbledon finalist.
"On grass, it's boom, boom. On clay, everything is much slower, but on grass you don't really have much time. Everything moves quickly, and it can be tricky if you are facing a talented girl, or just a good opponent," Muguruza said. "But those memories of 2015, they can only help me this summer."