Reign­ing cham­pion has hard path start­ing with 2010 win­ner Francesca

New Straits Times - - Sport -

GAR­BINE Mugu­ruza was in­vited to ap­pear at the pre French Open draw cer­e­mony on Fri­day — one of the du­ties of be­ing the reign­ing cham­pion.

She did not stay for the im­por­tant part though, when her first-round op­po­nent was re­vealed. Which is just as well as she might have looked a lit­tle un­com­fort­able at the prospect of fac­ing 2010 cham­pion Francesca Schi­avone.

Francesca, at 36, might not be quite the force she once was but is still a fe­ro­cious clay­court war­rior and will be ready to cap­i­talise on Gar­bine’s frag­ile con­fi­dence.

Spain’s Gar­bine looked ready to es­tab­lish her­self as a dom­i­nant force in the women’s game when she over­pow­ered Ser­ena Wil­liams in last year’s fi­nal.

But she has not kicked on.

She failed to win a match on the clay in Stuttgart and Madrid. Although she did en­joy a run to the semi-fi­nal in Rome, she re­tired with a neck in­jury against Elina Svi­tolina.

Talk­ing to re­porters on Fri­day she said the neck prob­lem was get­ting bet­ter and she will need to be 100 per cent against Francesca, who also reached the Roland Gar­ros fi­nal in 2011.

“I think it’s an in­ter­est­ing match,” the 23-year-old said.

“It’s very strange to find first round two past cham­pi­ons. And I saw her. She’s play­ing good. She played Bogota and an­other tour­na­ment where she reached the fi­nal or won.

“So I think she’s play­ing good on clay. It’s a good match to start.

“Doesn’t mat­ter re­ally who I’m go­ing to face. It’s gonna be an in­ter­est­ing tour­na­ment for me to see how I can play, how my feel­ings are. And that’s it.”

Gar­bine, coached by Sam Sumyk who used to guide for­mer World No 1 Vic­to­ria Azarenka, said she had been frus­trated with her form since win­ning the French Open.

“I think it was hard for me to think that I should re­pro­duce that. So that cre­ated a lit­tle bit of frus­tra­tion,” she said.

“It’s kind of — I know it’s very hard, but how can I not play like this ev­ery week, or if I have it?”

Gar­bine Mugu­ruza

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