PARIS, France - Garbiñe Muguruza began the defense of her 2016 title at Roland Garros on Monday, beating Italian Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-4 in the first round.
The Spaniard surged to the opening set inside 45 minutes but was made to work a bit harder by the 2010 champion for the decisive set, being broken early before recovering to see the game out with victory on her fourth match point. Schiavone's exit marks her final appearance in Paris, the veteran having announced she will retire at the end of the season.
With the exit on Sunday of top seed Angelique Kerber, Muguruza is the leading seed remaining in the top half of the draw and will fancy her chances of again making it deep into the second week. The last woman to successfully defend her singles title at Roland Garros was Justine Henin, a decade ago.
Schiavone's loss marked the third time in four years in Paris that she has gone home after the first hurdle, while Muguruza extends her winning run to eight matches - the last seven of which she did not drop a set in.
"I'm happy that I managed to play, to be kind of composed out there," Muguruza said. "I wasn't sure how I was going to react again on the centre court, playing against an ex-champ.
"I found a balance, even though some moments were difficult to overcome. I knew at some point she was going to come up with some great shots."
Muguruza, who faces Anett Kontaveit in the second round, also paid tribute to the retiring Schiavone. "She has been on tour for such a long time, when I look back on some videos, I heard her name since I'm... I don't know how old. She's fitter than most of the players.
"Today I think it was just a tough match for both of us... because we kind of love it here. I don't see myself playing at 36! She has a spectacular body, to be able to do that."
Schiavone admitted a slow start cost her the match but was pleased with her recovery. "The first three games you could see that I couldn't put one ball in," she said. "And then I say, 'Wow, I feel like 15-years-old'. I say, 'Oh, come on. It's 18 times that you play here.'
"This is me. I am like this. This is my power. This is my strength. I have to manage this. Anyway, I'm proud of what I did."