Muguruza wins opening match at US Open, dedicates victory to Suarez Navarro

New York, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- Spanish two-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza advanced to the second round of the US Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Nao Hibino and dedicated her win to countrywoman Carla Suarez Navarro, who announced Tuesday that she has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.

The world No. 16 used her height advantage to full effect in her first-round match on Louis Armstrong Stadium, winning 83 percent of her first-serve points and only dropping serve once.

The 1.63-meter (5-foot-4) Hibino, who is 20 centimeters (nearly eight inches) shorter than Muguruza, was not nearly as effective with her first serve and managed to win a very low 57 percent of those points.

That made all the difference in a match that was fairly evenly contested from the baseline, with the bigger-hitting Muguruza hitting six more winners (22 to 16) but committing five more unforced errors (23 to 18).

Hibino jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set after breaking the Spaniard’s serve in the second game of the match, but the 2017 Wimbledon champion subsequently reeled off seven straight games to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 6-4, 2-0 advantage.

The 78th-ranked Japanese player stayed close by winning a pair of long service games toward the end of the match, but Muguruza finished off the victory with a forehand winner on match point.

“I was happy to go on the court. Of course, the lack of matches, it’s there. I had a slow start. I think Hibino started very fast, very well,” Muguruza was quoted as saying on the WTA’s website. “Then I started, little by little, feeling better, and starting to feel a little bit more my game.”

Next up for the Spaniard in the second round will be Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova, who defeated Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-3.

Speaking of Suarez Navarro, the world No. 16 said she was “shocked” at the news.

“When we spoke a few days ago when she gave me the news, I was, I think, shocked, because I was expecting to see her in this tournament,” Muguruza said after her win. “You know, she’s such a nice woman, so sweet, so kind, so humble.”

“I, for sure, will dedicate this win to her, because I want her to feel that we are behind her, that I am behind her, and I will go and see her at some point when it is fine,” she said.

On Tuesday, the WTA’s website published an official statement by the 31-year-old Suarez Navarro in which she confirmed the diagnosis of blood cancer.

“The clinical results were confirmed: I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. The doctors told me that it was small, curable lymphoma detected at an early stage. The treatment required is clear: I must complete a treatment with six months of chemotherapy,” she wrote. “That’s the only goal I have in mind right now. Everything else becomes automatically secondary.”

In other US Open results on Tuesday, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray rallied from two sets down and then a service-break deficit in the fifth set to defeat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

The Scottish star is striving to regain his form after overcoming what appeared to be a career-ending injury.

Last week, he defeated German world No. 7 Alexander Zverev for his first victory over a top-10 player since returning to the ATP Tour last year following a second – and highly successful – hip surgery.

Also Tuesday, Austrian world No. 2 Dominic Thiem moved through to the second round when his opponent, Spain’s Jaume Munar, retired after losing the first two sets 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

In other women’s first-round action, second-seeded American Sofia Kenin, who defeated Muguruza to capture her first major title at the Australian Open in early February, cruised past Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-2.

The US Open is normally the last Grand Slam event of the tennis season, but it is the second major tournament of the coronavirus-interrupted 2020 season because Wimbledon was canceled and the French Open was postponed until late September and early October.

No fans are in attendance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center due to continued concerns about Covid-19. EFE-EPA

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