Fast-rising Garbine Muguruza confidently eyed a potential final with defending champion Serena Williams Tuesday after she demolished debutante Anett Kontaveit to reach the second round.
The third-seeded Spaniard, the biggest breakout star of 2015, was too hot for the Estonian, racing to a 6-0, 6-4 first-round win in just 60 minutes.
The explosive Muguruza, enjoying her highest career seeding at a Grand Slam, has been tipped as a future world number one and she lived up to her billing on Rod Laver Arena.
“It was definitely a good start. You never know how it’s going to go, first match always in a Grand Slam,” she said.
“I’m pretty pleased with my level, and obviously that I really concentrated during the whole match.”
Although it’s early days, she is already pondering a title clash with Williams, although there is a possible fourth round against two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to contend with first.
“To win the Grand Slam here you are going to have to beat Serena (Williams). It will be great if I can play against her,” she said.
The highly marketable 22-year-old came out firing, appearing keen to get off court as quickly as possible as the Melbourne temperatures rose.
She signalled her intentions by breaking the Estonian’s first game before comfortably holding her own serve, dictating the match and pushing her opponent around the court.
Though inexperienced, Kontaveit has proven before to be a tough nut to crack, rolling into the second week of last year’s US Open before falling to Venus Williams in the round of 16, and she began finding her range.
But it was still not enough to prevent the Spaniard taking an ominous 3-0 lead, breaking again when the Estonian slammed a forehand into the net.
She showed no mercy as Kontaveit, ranked 85 and playing her first Australian Open, desperately looked for answers but couldn’t find any, as Muguruza powered to the first set in just 23 minutes.
– Delaying the inevitable -Muguruza, who made the fourth round last year when ranked just 24, finally lost a game at the beginning of the second set as her opponent, sweat dripping off her, showed fighting qualities to hold serve to love.
But Muguruza quickly slammed the door shut again and she accelerated to a 3-1 advantage.
The feisty Kontaveit refused to give up and won three more games, but it was only delaying the inevitable with Muguruza serving out for the easy win and a second round clash with experienced Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
Muguruza, who split with long-time coach Alejo Mancisidor last year, is now working with Azarenka’s former mentor Sam Sumyk, who guided the Belarusian to the top of the women’s game and successive Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013.
After claiming her first WTA title at Hobart in 2014, last year was a watershed for Muguruza.
She not only reached the final at Wimbledon but also in Wuhan, before winning the title at Beijing and making the semis of the WTA Tour Finals.
The Barcelona-based star had an early-season injury scare at the Brisbane International with blisters on her feet, but said Tuesday she was fully recovered.