NEW YORK, NY, USA -- No.12 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain kicked off her 2018 US Open campaign with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over World No.34 Zhang Shuai of China, one of the highest-ranked unseeded players in the draw.
"I think it was a very intense match," Muguruza said during her post-match press conference. "I think the result, especially in the second set, doesn't match how tough it was for both of us. I think she's just such an intense player, you know, very flat and with a lot of rhythm. So, you know, I think we were both aggressive."
"I'm happy that I played the match, of course that I won," Muguruza continued. "I didn't play a lot of matches this summer, so I'm happy and, you know, not taking anything for granted. So it's a step forward."
Muguruza, who reached the fourth round last year for her career-best performance in New York, won the rubber match with Zhang after the combatants had split their two prior meetings, both of which were three-set tussles which took place last year.
The powerful Spaniard had 20 winners to only 14 unforced errors in the match, and won over half the points on Zhang's first and second serves during the 77-minute encounter. Muguruza thus has won her last 16 first-round matches in Grand Slam events.
Former World No.1 Muguruza will face either Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine or Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova in the second round, as she seeks her third Grand Slam title to go alongside her trophies attained at 2016 Roland Garros and 2017 Wimbledon.
"I'm like, 'Listen, I'm going to go, train hard, I'm going to go every little step forward,'" Muguruza stated. "Every day you gain a little bit more confidence. That's it. I try to not have a lot of expectations here, so I'm a little bit in the shadow. I'm happy to be in the shadow."
An exchange of breaks started the hard-hitting affair, but Muguruza was already making her intention known to move forward and finish points off in the forecourt when she could. But the Zhang firepower was solid in the opening stages of the first set, and the players were deadlocked through 3-3.
Suddenly, though, Zhang’s unforced errors crept up, and she found herself down triple break point in that game. The Chinese player attempted a forehand passing shot around another charge to the net by Muguruza, but she fired it wide, and Muguruza opened up a break lead for 4-3.
Muguruza grasped onto the momentum and held for 5-3, forcing Zhang to serve to stay in the set. The Spaniard quickly reached 0-40 and triple set point before Zhang reclaimed her serving prowess to force the game back to deuce. Finally, though, Muguruza claimed her fourth game in a row, as she broke again on her fifth set point of the game after another long miscue by Zhang.
Zhang could not halt the Muguruza train in the second set, and quickly fell behind, dropping serve at 1-0 by double faulting while down break point. Extravagant defense by the Spaniard frustrated Zhang into errors as the set progressed, and the Chinese No.1 dropped serve once more to give Muguruza the 4-0 lead.
Muguruza continued her mastery over error-prone Zhang on the day, swiftly zooming to triple match point on Zhang’s serve at 5-0. Muguruza squandered the first with a netted service return, but on the second, she went for broke on return again, and this time, hit a scorching backhand winner to close out the match by winning her tenth game in a row.