SYDNEY, Australia – Garbiñe Muguruza won a blockbuster first-round clash against compatriot Carla Suárez Navarro, 6-3, 6-4.
Since meeting twice in the space of five days in February 2015, the pair had not met at all in WTA action, with Muguruza’s victory taking her to a 2-1 career head-to-head advantage over her opponent.
Reflecting upon a Monday that saw her match pushed back due to rain delays, she said: “It’s been a tough day, but it’s normal. We played outdoors so we’ve got to be prepared for these conditions.
“And it was especially tough because Carla and I, we’re friends, but it’s competition so we have to put on our poker face and try to win.”
After playing in the Hopman Cup last week, where she was managing a thigh injury that she promised is “much better”, the former WTA World No.1 took to competitive Tour action for the first time in 2019.
It would prove to be a tight encounter, though the greater consistency on the big points from Muguruza, ranked five places higher than her opponent at WTA World No.18, proved the difference.
The younger Spaniard got off to the quicker start in the match, holding serve comfortably before fashioning a couple of break points, the second of which was taken.
It proved to be the decisive moment of the opening set, in which Muguruza managed to keep her nose marginally ahead throughout. Indeed, after making the breakthrough, it was her serve that was put under greater pressure as she failed to win another point on the Suárez Navarro delivery until trailing 40-0 in the first game of the second set.
Indeed, the 30-year-old seemed to have grown into the match impressively after her early lapse, which made for a tight first set.
She was not quite able, however, to hit back. She got close, notably at 5-3, 30-30, when her opponent sent a serve onto the edge of the tramline, which prompted an unsuccessful challenge. It was this type of margin, though, that decided the set.
Having thrown in a loose game at the start of the first, Suárez Navarro did likewise early in the second, allowing serve to escape her due to a succession of loose errors.
She worked hard to create a chance to hit back immediately as she won the best exchange of the match, but on that break point she found the door slammed in her face once more thanks to another Muguruza ace.
Five minutes later, it was a kind net cord that saved Suárez Navarro as she fended off the second of two break points, but at deuce she failed to find the court and then aggressive play from Muguruza forced another error that brought up a double break.
Although the two-time Grand Slam winner was pegged back as her opponent rallied, her serve came good once more and allowed her to set up a meeting with Kiki Bertens in the second round.