Muguruza battles past Gauff to reach Italian Open round of 16

Rome, Sep 17 (efe-epa).- Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza overcome a stern challenge from American phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff on Thursday at the Italian Open, bouncing back after dropping the second set to win 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-3.

Playing behind closed doors at the Foro Italico, Muguruza won a hard-hitting first-set battle that came down to a tiebreaker.

Although the 16-year-old Gauff took an early lead in that decider at 3-1, Muguruza got back on serve when a down-the-line forehand clipped the baseline for a winner and then finished off an impressive run of six straight points with an ace on set point.

But Gauff responded by taking an early 2-1 lead in the second set on the strength of her defense, finishing off that third game with a forehand passing shot.

The American then stretched her lead to 4-1 when she broke serve again courtesy of a crosscourt forehand winner on an approach shot.

Muguruza battled back to cut Gauff’s lead to 4-3 and had a break point for 4-4, but the American escaped danger with some aggressive net-rushing play and then broke serve one more time to clinch the second set.

Gauff also jumped out to an early service-break lead in the third set, but the American then beat herself with double faults down the stretch.

She allowed Muguruza to get back on serve at 1-2 by missing three second serves in the net and then committed two more double faults when serving at 2-2 to fall down a service break.

Gauff refused to go down quietly despite her struggles and had a break point in the eighth game, although Muguruza managed to stave it off with an effective net approach before going on to take a 5-3 lead.

In the final game, another double fault by Gauff and a forehand in the net on match point sealed her fate.

“I don’t look at her as a different player,” Muguruza said of her young opponent after the match. “She’s here and she’s playing, and it doesn’t matter how old she is. She’s a great competitor and she can play very well, as she’s proven to us.”

Next up for the ninth-seeded Muguruza in the round of 16 will be the United Kingdom’s Johanna Konta, the No. 7 seed, who defeated Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-4 on Thursday.

In other women’s singles second-round action on Thursday, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, runner-up at this month’s US Open, trounced the 2020 Australian Open champion, American Sofia Kenin, 6-0, 6-0.

In men’s singles second-round action, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic defeated Canada’s Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-2 to set up a round of 16 clash against Spanish world No. 2 and nine-time Italian Open champion Rafael Nadal.

Promising 18-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti, meanwhile, backed up his surprise victory over Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka by upsetting Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.

The Italian Open is one of the biggest clay-court tournaments on the ATP and WTA calendars and a key tune-up for the coronavirus-delayed French Open, which this year will be played from late September to early October.



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