Melbourne: 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.
Bouchard looks to the future
Eugenie Bouchard said she wanted to forget her troubled past and look to the future Wednesday as her return to form gathered pace with an impressive win at the Australian Open.
The 22-year-old, on the comeback trail after her high-flying career plunged into a tailspin, came through a testing tiebreaker against tricky Chinese Peng Shuai to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and reach the third round.
Bouchard became one of the most bankable assets in women's tennis in 2014 when she stormed to the Wimbledon final as well as the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens.
But the confident, charismatic Canadian then saw her career nosedive in 2015 and her ranking slump. She also suffered concussion after slipping and falling in the locker-room at the US Open.
Bouchard says she has now rediscovered her motivation, with a run to the semi-finals of this month's Sydney International boosting her confidence.
"I feel like I'm playing well and I could have chances," she said of her early-season form, adding that she had learned important lessons over the past few years.
"I have learned a lot about the ups and downs of tennis, that that is how life goes sometimes. I have learned how to better handle the pressure."
But Bouchard said she is also keen to put the past behind her as she targets a return to the top 20, from her current ranking of 47.
"I'm not thinking about the past anymore, I'm tired of thinking and talking about it," she said.
"There's no point looking back. For me, it's only about the future. The first goal is to get back into the top 20. I don't know when, though."
The experienced Peng, a two-times Grand Slam doubles champion and a former US Open singles semi-finalist, was always going to be a difficult test.
But Bouchard rose to the challenge, coming through plenty of gruelling, physical rallies in the first set with her athleticism to the fore in a close-fought tiebreaker.
The Canadian scored a crucial second-set break in game four and kept the pressure as Peng began to fade, winning with a powerful forehand on her fourth match point.
She will next play either France's Pauline Parmentier or American Coco Vandeweghe, with a potential fourth round clash world number one Angelique Kerber, whom she beat in Rome last year, awaiting her.
Disappointing day for Americans
It's been a disappointing day for the American men at Melbourne Park.
John Isner, the highest-seeded US player in the men's draw, wasted a two-set-to-none lead and lost in the second round to Mischa Zverev of Germany, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7.
Isner had 98 winners in the 4-hour, 10-minute match, but only converted one of 17 breakpoint chances against Zverev.
Isner was joined on the sidelines by Steve Johnson, Noah Rubin and Ryan Harrison — all second-round losers on Wednesday afternoon.
The one bright spot for the US was 31st-seeded Sam Querrey, who advanced with a 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win over Australian wild card Alex De Minaur.
Jack Sock, the 23rd seed, was playing later against Karen Khachanov of Russia.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Jan 18, 2017 15:57 PM | Updated Date: Jan 18, 2017 15:57 PM