PARIS, France - No.19 seed Garbiñe Muguruza was in imperious form as she dismissed Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-1 in just one hour and four minutes to progress to the third round of Roland Garros for the sixth consecutive year.
The 2016 champion had taken some time to settle into her groove in the first round, needing three sets to see off Taylor Townsend 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, but was swifter out of the blocks in her first meeting with Larsson. Striking her famed backhand with ferocity from the outset, Muguruza stamped her authority firmly on the majority of the rallies.
"I think it was a better match than the first one," assessed Muguruza afterwards. "I think we had some great rallies. I could control a little bit more my nerves this match."
Larsson has had a lean time since winning her second singles title just over a year ago in Nurnberg, with just a 7-20 record in WTA main draws since - indeed, the 30-year-old's first-round win over Magdalena Rybarikova was only her third of this season, and the loss of her Nurnberg points last week has seen her sink to World No.172, her lowest ranking since January 2010. But Larsson nonetheless gave a good account of herself in the first set, racking up some fine backhand winners of her own and showcasing some fine counterpunching off Muguruza's pace at times.
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The Spaniard, though, was almost impregnable behind her serve: after being taken to deuce in the second game, she would concede just seven further points behind it for the rest of the match. Moreover, though the 25-year-old's forehand would drop a little too short in the opening stages, this was soon rectified. A down-the-line winner off that wing opened the door on Larsson's serve in the fifth game, and Muguruza seized the opportunity with ruthless efficiency, a brace of scorching returns eliciting shanks from the Swede - and a break for the former World No.1.
With the first set soon under her belt, Muguruza began to zone. Breaking to love with a dropshot to start the second set, winners began to flow from the Monterrey champion's racquet, eventually tallying 16 to just 10 unforced errors. A crosscourt forehand winner in the second game was hit with such pace that Larsson could barely react; a game later, Muguruza lofted a lob over her opponent's head with deceptive casualness.
"I tried to build points a bit more instead of hitting very hard and trying to get a winner," she explained afterwards. "And then I had to adapt my game to the clay, because you have to adapt. You have to build your points a bit more. I also used more topspin, and I tried to be more patient."
Larsson would battle gamely, stemming the flow temporarily with bold play in saving two break points to fall behind 0-5 - but the 30-year-old's ground game, for the most part, was breaking down beneath the weight and intensity of Muguruza's punishing aggression as she mounted a total of 24 unforced errors. The respite was brief: two games later, Larsson sent a backhand into the net as the former champion sealed victory on her first match point.
Muguruza will next bid to keep her streak of five straight years in the second week of Roland Garros going against No.9 seed Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian progressed into the third round when compatriot Kateryna Kozlova withdrew with a viral illness, handing her a walkover.
The pair have played in Paris before - in the 2012 qualifying rounds, with Muguruza winning 6-1, 7-5, a match she has no memory of these days. The Spaniard would also beat Svitolina again in Wimbledon qualifying that year - but since then has lost five of their six main draw encounters.
"I'm highly motivated because she's one of the top players right now," said Muguruza. " was a very long time ago. So I think now it's different, and I could watch more and pay attention to our last matches rather than those 2012 qualies. Last time we played was in Dubai... We played excellent matches, long rallies, and very different matches. It's going to be interesting."