MELBOURNE, Australia - Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza powered her way into the third round of the Australian Open after outlasting home favorite Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets.
The Spaniard struck 34 winners and broke Tomljanovic four times en route to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory, bringing their head-to-head record to 2-1.
"I'm happy to win matches like this where there's stuff going on and you've got to hang in there," she told the media afterwards.
The former World No.1, currently sitting at No.32 in the rankings, has bounced back with force after a sluggish start to the season. After her semifinal run in Shenzhen, she struggled with viral illness and had to pull out of last week’s Hobart International in the quarterfinals.
She was still visibly under the weather in her bizarre Melbourne opener against qualifier Shelby Rogers, gutting out a 0-6, 6-1, 6-0 win to advance.
Now looking back to full health and playing her vintage best, Muguruza remains on target for a tantalizing rematch with No.5 seed Elina Svitolina in the third round - the Ukrainian plays Lauren Davis later in the day.
Out on Rod Laver Arena, the unseeded Muguruza was in trouble early on as Tomljanovic got off to an early break, leading 0-2. Muguruza needed a few games to warm up, but as she found her range she employed her trademark backhand down the line, redirecting the ball to take control of the rallies.
From 0-2 down, Muguruza raised her level and reeled off five games in a row, breaking twice to take a 5-2 lead. She dodged a pair of break points a game later, and served out the set with confidence.
Both players had plenty of chances to take the lead in the second set, which saw them create five break point opportunities between the two. But it was Tomljanovic who claimed the decisive break, getting ahead at 4-2 and sending them into a deciding set.
Muguruza served up a pair of solid love holds to start the third set, looking dialed in and closing in on the finish line. She broke Tomljanovic at 3-1, and stayed calm as the Australian hit back to level at 3-3. The Spaniard surged in front again at 5-3, and converted her third match point to seal the victory after a hard-fought two hours and 21 minutes on court.
"I was expecting a tough match because we have played before and I saw she was having good matches," said Muguruza.
"So I was ready for a battle. She did push me and I pushed her. At the end on the third set, it was very close for both of us. I was just happy the way I played and how I managed to close it up on those, in those final games."