NEW YORK (Reuters) – Spain’s Garbine Muguruza looked determined to overcome her U.S. Open jinx on Tuesday, overcoming a sluggish start to collect a snappy 6-4 6-4 first round win over Japan’s Nao Hibino.
The U.S. Open has been a black hole for the former French Open and Wimbledon champion, who this year nearly added to her collection of grand slam trophies reaching the final in Australia.
In stark contrast to her success at the other slams, Muguruza has struggled to make an impact on the New York hardcourts. She has made it past the second round just once in seven previous visits to Flushing Meadows.
The U.S. Open is the only grand slam where the 26-year-old has yet to at least reach the last eight.
“I was anxious a little bit because I did not play in the last six months and did not have a chance to play before the U.S. Open to get ready for here,” said Muguruza. “I am happy with my performance I was expecting a tough match and it was.
“I miss a little bit the competition.”
Falling behind 4-1 in the opening set, the 10th seed Spaniard looked nothing like the player who had reached the quarter-finals or better in all five events she had entered before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Having not played a competitive match since February, there was plenty of rust to shake off but Muguruza did that in a hurry. She won seven straight games from her 78th ranked opponent to take the opening set and a 2-0 lead in the second.
Even when Muguruza had the match in control, there were concerning signs about her lack of fitness. A long exchange on match point left the Spaniard gasping for breath as she slumped into her seat.
“I think she was playing very good at the beginning and I started a little bit slow for how well she was playing,” said Muguruza.
“I started to feel better, my game came with the flow and rhythm of the match and I managed to play at the end pretty good.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Pritha Sarkar)