Muguruza hopes to beat the pain at Australian Open

Kerber serves notice to rivals with Sydney triumph

AFP, Reuters
15:26 January 13, 2018

Melbourne: World number three Garbine Muguruza said Saturday she was hoping to be “pain-free” to begin her Australian Open campaign, but admitted she would have liked a better start to 2018.

The Wimbledon champion pulled out of the Sydney International with a thigh injury straight after beating Kiki Bertens on Wednesday.

A week earlier, she had retired from the Brisbane International with cramps.

“It’s true, I would like to have played more matches,” said the 24-year-old Spaniard, who said she was happy with her form, if not her fitness.

“I only played two matches, but I felt that my tennis was good. I think sometimes you don’t need that many matches. With my experience, sometimes you play very good, and you don’t need 25 tournaments before,” she said.

Muguruza revealed that her injury had responded well to treatment but she could not guarantee she would be 100 per cent fit come the start of the year’s first Grand Slam on Monday.

“Well, it’s better. I’m training every day. I’m doing everything I can to be fully recovered,” she said.

“Yeah, hopefully I’m pain-free and everything-free once the tournament starts. I feel I’m much better every day.”

The two-time Grand Slam winner is in the same half of the draw as world number one Simona Halep and takes on French wildcard Jessika Ponchet, ranked 270, in the opening round.

Muguruza, seeded three, could face another Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia, in the quarters.

Former world number one Angelique Kerber continued her 2018 resurgence with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty in the Sydney International final, giving herself a welcome boost ahead of next week’s Australian Open.

The German two-time grand slam champion, currently ranked 22nd in the world after a disappointing 2017 campaign, registered her ninth win in as many matches this year with another clinical performance against the local favourite.

It was the first individual final since Monterrey in April last year for the 29-year-old left-hander, who won the Australian and US Open titles in 2016.

“Thanks to my team for believing in me and supporting me, we had an excellent week. I am really looking forward to the rest of the year,” Kerber said in a court-side interview after claiming a first title since her U.S. Open triumph.

“I am playing amazing tennis again and I am just feeling great.”

After some tight early service games, Barty double-faulted to hand Kerber the first break and a 3-2 lead, and the German served out the opening set with little trouble.

The second set witnessed an early exchange of breaks before Kerber broke the Australian to love to move 4-3 ahead and picked up her 11th career title when Barty found the net after yet another powerful Kerber forehand.