Muguruza gets off the mark in Chicago

Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza and Ons Jabeur from Tunisia opened their campaigns with straight set wins at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Tuesday, defeating America’s Ann Li and Su-wei Hsieh from Taiwan respectively, while Britain’s Harriet Dart, a lucky loser into the main draw, came through 3 sets to beat Beatriz Haddad-Maia from Brazil, 6-1 3-6 6-1.


With 6-4 6-4, it was very tight. I think the match was very equal due to the circumstances, but I'm happy that I stayed calm in the 5-4, serving for each set, and I managed to close them out. Garbiñe Muguruza

Also coming through their openers were 7th-seeded Elise Mertens from Belgium, No 11 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and 14th-seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, all also in straight sets.

Muguruza, the 2nd seed, said the breezy conditions were challenging during her 6-4 6-4 win over 21-year old Li

“It was a difficult match just because [Chicago] is a windy city, or the city of the wind,” Muguruza said. “Just controlling the mindset and not getting very frustrated because it’s difficult.”

After 3 years outside of the Top 10, the former World No 1 returned to the elite group in July, and is now ranked 9, with a real prospect of securing a coveted spot at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

Muguruza needed an hour-and-a-half to oust the rising American, who had knocked out former Top 20 player Donna Vekic with ease in the opening round.

The Spaniard had Li’s measure, though, converting 4 of her 6 break points as she collected her 35th match-win of 2021.

Li kept both sets close, nevertheless, and struck 15 winners to Muguruza’s 13, but she also had 5 more unforced errors, and she only converted 2 of her 6 break point chances.

While Muguruza saw an early 2-0 lead slide back to 2-2, she reclaimed her advantage in the next game, breaking for a 3-2 lead after a netted miscue by Li.

At 5-3, Li did well to save a set point before holding, but Muguruza came through in the next game, completing a love hold with a forehand winner.

In the second, Muguruza saw another early break slip away, but at 4-4, she broke Li to 15 after a forehand by the American flew wide and the Spaniard closed out the match in the next game following consecutive backhand errors by Li from 30-30.

“With 6-4 6-4, it was very tight,” Muguruza added. “I think the match was very equal due to the circumstances, but I’m happy that I stayed calm in the 5-4, serving for each set, and I managed to close them out.”

Victoria Azarenka could be Garbiñe Muguruza's next opponent if the Belarusian wins her second round match

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

Muguruza could face a fellow two-time Grand Slam champion and former World No 1 in her next match Azarenka after the Belarusian dispatched China’s Shuai Zhang, 6-2 6-1, and next takes on American wild-card Hailey Baptiste on Wednesday.

Azarenka handled the windy conditions well, and improved her career mark against Zhang to 3-0 and 6-0 in sets.

“I used to spend a bit of time in Chicago,” Azarenka said after the match. “One of the families I lived with when I was young, he was playing for the Chicago Blackhawks… so it felt special coming back here and knowing the support is here.

“It wasn’t easy conditions with the wind. Things can always change and it’s kind of hard to find your rhythm, so it’s important to stay in the moment as much as possible because things can blow in different directions very quickly.

“Focusing more on the footwork… and this [court] is a little bit faster where the ball goes through it quite a lot, so there are always adjustments.

“I feel like I’m going through a little bit of change, trying to change a few things in my game. Not everything is connecting yet, so it’s exciting and a bit of a scary period. I’m looking forward to facing those challenges and to push through like today, and always give my best.”

Harriet Dart replaced Lauren Davis in the main draw in Chicago as a lucky loser and beat Beatriz Haddad Maia in 3 sets on Tuesday

© Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Dart made the most of her second chance by scoring 81 points during her match against Haddad Maia’s 64, using aggressive play to blast 21 winners past the Brazilian and delivering 1 ace to only 1 double-fault in the entire match, although lost her serve 3 times and saved 3 break points.

Furthermore, Dart put 53% of her first serves in, winning 21 of 38 of the points behind her deliveries and 21 of 34 on her 2nd serve, while she broke Haddad Maia 7 times out of the 9 break points she created.

Dart, who has a composed 23-20 win-loss record in 2021, plays 12th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova from Russia in round two.

Elsewhere, in the first meeting between two crafty players, Jabeur, the 6th seed, zipped past Hsieh, 6-1 6-0, to book her spot in the round of 16.

Hsieh had gritted past former World No1 Kim Clijsters in the Belgian’s comeback match on Monday, but she had no answers for Jabeur, who comes into this week at a career-high ranking of 16.

Jabeur needed just 46 minutes to oust Hsieh, saving the lone break point she faced on the day.

The Tunisian also earned 5 breaks of service, spurred along by a 76 percent success rate when returning the Hsieh second serve.

Mertens, meanwhile, also made quick work of Dayana Yastremska, 6-1 6-3, in an hour 5 minutes.

The World No 18 was nearly impenetrable on serve during her first meeting with the former Top 25 Ukrainian, winning 87 percent of her first-service points and never facing a break point all day.

Fresh off her victory in Ostrava on Sunday, which is in the Czech Republic, Kontaveit started off in Chicago on Tuesday having trouble holding her serve, although her American opponent, Madison Brengle, offset this by having largely the same issue.

The Estonian missed out on converting a break point twice, but succeeded the third time and took the set.

In the second, Kontaveit, who is ranked 23rd in the world, was broken early on and found herself 3-2 down before recovering to take the next 4 and the match.

Brengle ended up with the better first service success rate at 71 percent to Kontaveit’s 63 percent, but the Estonian was significantly more successful with her second delivery, picking up 39 points compared with the American’s 29 percent, and converting 5 of 9 break-points compared with the 3 out of 8 of her opponent.

Kontaveit took an hour and 23 minutes to win her 12th consecutive set and has now won 13 of her last 14 matches, tripling her career title count in the last month by hoisting trophies in Cleveland and Ostrava.

She next faces Mai Hontama from Japan, ranked 200, who put out France’s Caroline Garcia in round one.

Two other Top 8 seeds also made swift passage into the third round on Tuesday.

No 13 seed Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia beat Sloane Stephens, 6-2 6-1, to reach the second round, breaking on 4 of her 7 chances, while the American was 0 for 8 on her opportunities.

Zidansek will next face Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, who is fresh off a quarter-final showing last week in Ostrava.



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