Garbine Muguruza admitted she had no clue about her Australian Open opponent Tuesday, but the third seed quickly adapted to keep intact her decade-long record of never losing in the first round in Melbourne.
The Spanish world number three began her campaign for a third Grand Slam title by easing past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon a year later before a drastic dip in form sent her tumbling down the rankings.
But the 28-year-old enjoyed a resurgence last year, winning titles at Chicago and Dubai before clinching the season-ending WTA Finals in November.
“I never lost the motivation,” said Muguruza after carrying last season’s momentum on to Rod Laver Arena. “There are always ups and downs as an athlete.
“The crowd makes a big difference when they are behind you. You feel fire and excitement, so I am so happy this year the crowd is here,” said Muguruza, a finalist in Melbourne in 2020 when she was beaten in three sets by Sofia Kenin.She came in with no knowledge of Burel’s game.
“Well, it felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” she said.
“Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.
“I’ve always gone through the first round and very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”