The surprises started early at the Australian Open on Thursday. No 3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza became the highest-seeded player to exit at Melbourne Park, just minutes after No 6 Anett Kontaveit lost.
Muguruza never managed to earn a single break point and made a whopping 33 unforced errors, more than twice her opponent’s total, in a 6-3 6-3 defeat against Alize Cornet in the second round under a bright blue and cloudless sky at Rod Laver Arena.
“A little bit surprised about my level. I am a little disappointed, too,” said Muguruza, who won the season-ending WTA Finals in 2021.
“I feel like my shots weren’t as accurate and precise. I feel, also, my aggressive game wasn’t that aggressive today.” Here’s how unexpected that result was: Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion and a two-time major runner-up, too, including making it to the final at the Australian Open in 2020.
And the 61st-ranked Cornet? She’s appearing in her 63rd career major tournament — and 60th in a row — but never has been beyond the fourth round.
Cornet will get a chance to equal that showing when she plays Saturday on what will be the Frenchwoman’s 32nd birthday.
She called herself “a little bit (of) a dinosaur.” “I don’t know how many years I have left,” Cornet said.
“Today was a perfect gift I could give myself and I really hope the journey’s going to go even farther for me.” Muguruza said she didn’t feel at her best physically and noted that the start of this season was “kind of stressful,” because COVID-19 spread through her support team and she was apart from them for two weeks.
Kontaveit, who lost to Muguruza in the title match at the WTA Finals, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by 19-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark.
“I just went in there believing I could win, but it wasn’t like I have to win,” said Tauson, who will make her debut in the third round at a major against 2019 Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins. “It was more: I can win, but we’ll see what happens.’” Other women advancing included No 7 Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, who defeated Rebecca Peterson 6-2 6-2, and No 31 Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up at Roland Garros, who beat Liudmila Samsonova 6-2 7-5.
Winners among the men included No 5 Andrey Rublev, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic and 70th-ranked Maxime Cressy of the US. No 24 Dan Evans moved on when the player he was supposed to face in the second round, Arthur Rinderknech, pulled out with an injured wrist.