Muguruza struggles into Open third round

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Spain’s Garbine Muguruza celebrates after victory against Samantha Crawford of the US during their women’s singles match on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN /

Garbine Muguruza proved too strong for American Samantha Crawford as the seventh seed overcame a tough examination to make the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The hard-hitting Spaniard struggled through 7-5, 6-4 and will next play Latvian 32nd seed Anastasija Sevastova, who beat Kristina Kucova in two easy sets.

The French Open champion, with her right thigh strapped after complaining of a sore leg during her first round clash, is yet to go beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

But she said ahead of the tournament she had matured and learned to better handle the pressure of being a top-10 player.

“She was super-powerful and hit the ball very hard, which made it difficult,” Muguruza said. “Today, I had to concentrate and wait for my opportunity.”

Muguruza showed few signs of early nerves on a cool evening on Rod Laver Arena.

Rather it was 76th-ranked Crawford, a former US Open junior champion, who had the jitters, struggling to find her touch with a string of unforced errors as Muguruza rushed to a 3-0 lead.

But the American, who made a big run to the semi-final in Brisbane last year which remains her career highlight to date, started to get in the zone and broke in game four to get back in the contest.

Muguruza has always struggled with consistency and was rattled by Crawford’s blitz, dropping four games in a row to go 3-4 behind.

Both players are thunderous hitters of the ball and there were some fierce rallies before the Spanish star finally got a break in the 11th game and held on to take a tough set.

But it was far from convincing from a player who opened her season with a run to the Brisbane International semi-finals.

The two, in their first career meeting, went neck and neck in the second set with little between them until Muguruza broke to go 5-4 ahead and served out the win.

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