Spanish star Muguruza crashes out to Strycova

Third seed Garbine Muguruza crashed out of the Australian Open on Saturday against Barbora Strycova, becoming the latest top-10 player to fall and putting her dream of a maiden Grand Slam title on hold.

The Spanish star, a Wimbledon finalist last year, was outplayed 6-3, 6-2 in 76 minutes, with her error-strewn game allowing the Czech veteran to reach the fourth round for the first time in nine attempts.

It was a remarkable upset by Strycova, who had only gone beyond the third round once in 38 previous Grand Slam appearances — at Wimbledon in 2014, where she made the quarter-finals.

“The plan was to play my tennis and hang in there. I thought I played a good game, deep balls,” said Strycova, 29.

Muguruza’s flop pits her alongside second seed Simona Halep, sixth seed Petra Kvitova and eighth seed Venus Williams as top 10 players who have failed to make the tournament’s second week.

Strycova’s reward is a potential showdown with two-time champion Victoria Azarenka for a spot in the quarter-final.

The Belarusian, who won the tournament in 2012 and 2013 but is only seeded 14 this year, plays her third round match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka later Saturday.

Muguruza was the breakout star of 2015 but also found the going tough in the second round against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens. It was no different with the 48th-ranked Strycova, as she clocked 32 unforced errors.

The Czech was a bundle of energy and while the Spaniard looked dangerous in the opening game, working two break points, she was unable to convert them and Strycova held on.

Muguruza was then broken in the next game with Strycova, a former junior champion in Melbourne, dominating from the baseline as the Spaniard struggled to find her range.

She knuckled down and against the Strycova serve in the third game, rallied from 40-love down to break back on a double fault and haul herself back into the match.

But the experienced Czech, a member of last year’s winning Fed Cup team, kept the pressure on Muguruza’s wobbly serve and got another break and then held for a 4-1 lead.

It went to serve until the struggling Spaniard smacked a backhand into the net to hand over the set in 38 minutes.

Fired-up, Strycova attacked her opponent’s second serve in the opening game of the second set to force consecutive errors as she chalked up another early break.

Muguruza’s service return was woeful and she was snatching at groundstrokes as the match slipped away. Strycova broke again in the seventh game as a forehand from the Spaniard drifted wide, before holding serve for one of the biggest wins of her career.

Before Saturday she had only beaten two top five players in her 13 years on tour, and Muguruza had defeated her easily in their two previous encounters.

Defeat for Muguruza was a setback after such a stellar 2015 season.

After claiming her first WTA title at Hobart in 2014, last year was a watershed as she reached the Wimbledon and Wuhan finals, won in Beijing and also made the semis at the WTA Finals.


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