ABU DHABI, U.A.E. -- No.5 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain booked a round of 16 spot at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open on Saturday, ousting Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 6-1, 6-4.

"I’m happy with the way it’s going," Muguruza told the press, after her win. "Since it’s the first tournament of the year, and it’s been a long time since my last match, I feel happy with how my tennis is going."

"It can be tricky in the first tournament to get the rhythm back in the competition, so [I'm] happy to be in the third round," Muguruza continued.

Former World No.1 Muguruza has had success at Middle East events recently, making back-to-back quarterfinals at Dubai and Doha last season. The two-time Grand Slam champion picked up another match-win in the region by defeating World No.90 Sasnovich after 77 minutes of play.

In the first meeting between the combatants, World No.15 Muguruza broke Sasnovich seven times on the day. Muguruza is attempting to put together a January which recalls that same month in 2020, when she posted an 11-2 win-loss record.

Former Top 30 player Sasnovich, meanwhile, had 26 unforced errors on the day, six more than Muguruza, and was denied her 15th career victory over a Top 20 opponent.

Muguruza will next face the winner of Saturday’s nightcap between No.9 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece and American teenager Coco Gauff.

"I’m looking forward for every match here," said Muguruza. "It’s been a while since my last tournament, just getting matches, in doubles and singles, and adding hours on court."

After an early exchange of breaks in the first two games of the match, Muguruza started a game-winning streak which would roll right on to the end of the opening frame. The Spaniard came out on top in the third game, using a sturdy backhand down the line to convert her fourth break point and reach 2-1, then stopped the run of service breaks to extend her lead to 3-1.

Muguruza kept up her run by finding a series of exquisite groundstrokes down the line, and powered her way out of a 15-40 deficit to get to 5-1. Excellent backhands by the former World No.1 twice put her at set point, and she grasped her second chance to wrap up the set after a Sasnovich forehand flew wide. Muguruza converted four of her ten break points in the opener.

Sasnovich came to court on a mission in the second set, sealing the last two points of the opening game with beautiful backhands and clinching an early break. However, the Belarusian let go of her advantage straightaway, dropping serve in the next game with a double fault.

That pattern repeated later in the set, as Sasnovich slammed a rally forehand square on the baseline to break for 3-2, only to see that lead evaporate once more when Muguruza struck back immediately with a powerful break of her own.

As the match wound down, Muguruza slammed three unreturned serves and a forehand winner down the line to hold at love for 5-4. In the next game, Sasnovich netted a forehand at 30-30 to give the Spaniard her first match point, and that was all the former World No.1 would need, as a backhand by the Belarusian found the net, allowing Muguruza to triumph in the tilt.

2021 Abu Dhabi Highlights: Muguruza stops Sasnovich