Rome, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza started her Italian Open campaign on the right foot with a 6-3, 6-3 first-round victory here Tuesday over American Sloane Stephens.
In a battle of Grand Slam champions that was played behind closed doors and interrupted by rain on two occasions, Muguruza went up an early service break when a long rally ended with Stephens leaving a forehand in the net.
The 2016 French Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon queen then extended that lead to 5-1 before the American started to mount a comeback.
Stephens recovered one of the service breaks when she approached the net and put away an overhead and then reduced the deficit to 5-3 with a service hold.
But the ninth-seeded Muguruza served out the first set on her second opportunity, coming out on top in a back-and-forth game in which the Spaniard saved four break points and failed to convert four set points before finally clinching the opener under a steady rain.
Play was then interrupted for about an hour while the players waited for the court to dry.
When it resumed, Muguruza jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead with a series of net approaches and swinging backhand volleys.
Although the 2017 US Open champion stayed reasonably close on the scoreboard, Muguruza clinched the victory with an outstanding running forehand winner on match point.
“It was a very tough first round,” Muguruza was quoted as saying afterward on the WTA’s website. “I think I played well and I had the right game plan today against her. You never know how it’s going to go because it’s been a while since I’ve played, and it’s my first match on clay, and the conditions were difficult.”
Next up for the Spaniard in the second round will be American 16-year-old phenom Cori “Coco” Gauff, who defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday.
In men’s first-round singles action on Tuesday, promising 18-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti stunned Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-0, 7-6 (7-2) in a match that in any other year would have had the crowd roaring.
The youngster won the first nine games of the match before Wawrinka came close to turning the contest in his favor.
Australia’s Alex de Minaur also was bounced out of the tournament on Tuesday, losing to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
Russia’s Andrey Rublev, however, moved through with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis, and Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic also advanced.
Shapovalov defeated Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-2, 6-3 and Raonic downed France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
The Italian Open is one of the biggest clay-court tournaments on the ATP and WTA calendars and a key tune-up for tennis’ biggest event on that surface, the French Open, which due to the coronavirus pandemic was pushed back this year to late September and early October. EFE-EPA