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Sweet taste of success as Muguruza eclipses Burel

  • Dan Imhoff

Garbine Muguruza accepts success is nothing without savouring the "sweet taste" it leaves in the aftermath.

At 28, and in her 10th Australian Open, experience has taught the Spaniard the balance between riding the highs and digesting the rotten lows.

Victory in the WTA Finals in Guadalajara to close out last season was one such high and on Tuesday, that sweet taste lingered as she kickstarted her Melbourne Park campaign with victory over Clara Burel.

Murguruza put in a polished performance for her opening round in a 6-3 6-4 result over the Frenchwoman.

“I never lose the motivation. There's always ups and downs as an athlete,” Muguruza said. “The crowd makes a big difference. When it's behind you, you feel like fire and feel excited. I'm so happy that this year we have a crowd here.”

It was Muguruza’s first outing on Rod Laver Arena since two match points slipped her grasp in a tough fourth-round exit to eventual champion Naomi Osaka last year.

That loss proved particularly bitter but typical of all great champions, she rebounded quickly and secured a title in Dubai immediately after.

It was her first in almost two years, the first of three for the season, which also included Chicago and the aforementioned triumph in Mexico.

MORE: Women's singles draw AO 2022

While the Spaniard’s two greatest Grand Slam moments came in finals victories over Serena Williams on the clay of Roland Garros and over Venus Williams on the grass at Wimbledon, her remaining eight career titles have all come on hard courts.

She came close to joining Serena in 2020 as only the second active women’s player to have claimed a major on all three surfaces, but came up short in a three-set final to Sofia Kenin.

“It's just a journey of adapting to what's your character,” Muguruza said. “Basically I'm an aggressive person on the court, I like to dominate. I train like that. I'm not like that outside, but inside the court I'm aggressive.”

One of eight Frenchwomen in the main draw, 77th-ranked Burel had made steady progress since a runner-up appearance at the 2018 junior Australian Open.

In only her second clash with a top-10 opponent, she gave the third seed plenty to ponder early on.

But a double fault to drop serve at 3-all undid her hard work, having pegged back level, as the wheels began to fall off rather quickly.

Muguruza stamped her authority with a third successive break two games later for the set as 17 unforced errors from her 20-year-old opponent proved costly.

Muguruza's opened her AO 2022 campaign in fine style

While neither woman showed any hesitation closing at net, it was a succession of winners from Muguruza – first, a sharp angled lunge volley, next a swinging drive volley – which gave her the breathing space of a second-set break.

The Spaniard had never fallen at the first hurdle in Melbourne and, while three match points went begging at 5-2, she steadied to move on in 89 minutes to set a second-round meeting with another Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet.

“I'm a winner and I'm so motivated here, especially the early rounds,” she said. “You know you're nervous and you want to get through these matches where everybody can beat everybody. Very happy now I could manage to finish 6-4 in the second set.”