MELBOURNE, Australia - No.18 seed Garbiñe Muguruza needed just over an hour and 20 minutes to book her spot into the second round of the Australian Open with a win over Zheng Saisai.
The two-time Grand Slam champion - who was a quarterfinalist here in Melbourne back in 2017 - wasted no time against Zheng, weathering a late wobble to clinch the 6-2, 6-3 victory.
The win also extends Muguruza’s stellar record in Grand Slam first-round matches to 22-3; in fact, she hasn’t lost an opening match at the Grand Slam level in 17 consecutive appearances.
“It’s never easy to start a Grand Slam, playing somebody you don't know [for the first time],” Muguruza told press afterwards. “But I didn't have a lot of expectation. I wasn't very nervous, just happy to be playing, to feel good, to feel better, compared to last week [in Sydney].
“I’m happy because I want to play as many matches as possible, so it's good.”
Muguruza was seamless in the first set against Zheng, dropping just two points in her first three service games and putting all the pressure on her Chinese opponent. As a result, Zheng was the first to crack, giving Muguruza a break at 4-2. The Spaniard reeled off the last two games - batting away a break-back point - and quickly wrapped up the opening set.
She looked like she was in cruise control to start the second set as well, but things got a little bit complicated for Muguruza as she closed in on the match.
After going up a daunting double break, leading by 5-1, her opponent started to mount a late comeback. Zheng converted her third break point of the set to extend her stay in the match, and pushed Muguruza for the next three games. But the Spaniard righted the ship just in time, sealing the victory 6-2, 6-3 after an hour and 20 minutes.
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Despite the late wobble, Muguruza finished with some solid numbers in her opening win: 23 winners offset by 18 unforced errors, and a strong 75% of first serves in.
“I know that I love playing in the bigger courts, bigger tournaments,” she said. “I think I need to play a lot of matches. I think I come from a far place, so I think I need to leave from here having tough matches.”
A tough match surely awaits her in the next round, as Muguruza is set to face Johanna Konta, the winner against Ajla Tomljanovic in a three-set thriller earlier in the day.
“I think we both have an aggressive game,” Muguruza assessed. “It’s a tough second round, because she can play very well. I'm looking forward to play. I think it's going to be a great match of second round.”