By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Returning to the stage of her greatest triumph inspired defending champion Garbine Muguruza to down 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone 6-2 6-4 in the first round of the French Open on Monday.
The fourth seed, who had been woefully out of form in the run-up to Roland Garros, never looked in danger of joining Russian Anastasia Myskina as the only reigning women’s champion to lose in the opening round of the claycourt grand slam.
The Spaniard outclassed the skilful Italian with her poise and power in muggy conditions.
There were several top-notch rallies and Schiavone pulled a few tricks from her bag, threatening in the second set. However, she made too many unforced errors to sustain any form of challenge.
“I was so excited to play here against another champion. Francesca is a legend,” Muguruza said.
She credited her win to staying composed throughout.
“You need to be focused. You need to be calm. Perhaps the public thinks that, okay, she won last year (so this match should be easy), but you need to avoid being (distracted) with these thoughts,” she told a news conference.
“I could have had anyone as an opponent today, but I need to win my own battles, my own fights.”
Muguruza raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening set and just when Schiavone was starting to work around her opponent’s power as she reduced the arrears to 3-2, the match was interrupted for 10 minutes as a spectator was attended to by first-aiders.
The Spaniard won 19 of 20 points after play resumed and led 2-0 in the second set.
That is when Schiavone’s game fell into place. She broke back and had two break chances in the sixth game, which Muguruza saw off confidently.
The champion then broke decisively for 5-4. Schiavone saved three match points but volleyed wide on the fourth.
Muguruza next faces Estonian Anett Kontaveit, one of the in-form players on clay this season who beat the Spaniard in the second round in Stuttgart.
“It’s a tough draw. It’s going to be a tough game. She’s enjoying a very good season on clay. She has an aggressive game too,” the 23-year-old said.
“So I’m going to start by enjoying my win today, and then I’ll wonder about the approach for the next game, which will be tough.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)