(Reuters) - Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza has said training with special groups of Spain's Civil Guard police force during her off-season opened her eyes to the hardships faced by vulnerable migrants trying to reach Europe.
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Muguruza underwent military training with the Civil Guard after her French Open exit in October last year, taking part in helicopter rescue missions, cave diving and self-defence classes on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
"It was an incredible week," Muguruza told reporters at the Abu Dhabi Open. "I've always wanted to do military training, ever since I was a kid, but the timing was never right with playing tennis.
"Just sharing with them the kind of job that they do – they don't get any awards or trophies – it was such an experience."
The 27-year-old said that seeing migrants make sea crossings from Africa was the toughest challenge when she worked with the coast guard.
"It was quite hard because you see many people in need," she added. "I experienced many aspects of the job and I found this one pretty tough. I love all the adventure stuff, but there is an ugly truth that they have to face and it really opened my eyes."
Muguruza, a runner-up at the Australian Open last year, also said she had no concerns about this year's event from Feb. 8-21 despite the strict COVID-19 protocols in place, which include a 14-day mandatory quarantine for players.
"I'm not really concerned, I think they're doing an incredible job in putting all this together and making a whole swing in Melbourne," she said.
"I think it's going to be mentally tough to go through the protocols because nothing comes easy now. I have to prepare for that."
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)