NEW YORK — Garbiñe Muguruza opened her U.S. Open with an easy victory, looking like a favorite whether she believes it or not.
The Wimbledon champion, who has never been past the second round here, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. 6-0, 6-3 on Monday in just over an hour.
No. 5 Marin Cilic followed her onto Arthur Ashe Stadium and beat American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in his first match since the Wimbledon final, hoping he’s healthy enough to make a run through a men’s field that’s been decimated by injuries.
Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion but had just a 2-4 record in the year’s final major. She acknowledged after her match having a “dark past” at the U.S. Open, but the No. 3 seed is perhaps the hottest player on the women’s tour and is considered one of the favorites here even with her poor previous results.
“Oh, I don’t really care, because I don’t feel — I don’t feel I’m a favorite here, because I never really played very good,” Muguruza said. “I did play good but just didn’t go my way.”
But she’s played great this summer, following her victory over Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final by winning the tuneup event in Cincinnati. The Spaniard has won 16 of her last 18 matches, and with Serena Williams pregnant and not playing and No. 2 Simona Halep facing a difficult opening-round match against former champion Maria Sharapova, Muguruza understands why people are picking her.
“In the paper, people might think that. But you come here and with the conditions and the past, there are certain players that play better and certain players that don’t,” she said. “So far I’m just thinking that I’m happy that I’m in second round, and that’s what I’m going to take.”
In her match, Williams shook off a mid-match lapse to improve to 19-0 in the U.S. Open’s first round and stay in the hunt for the No. 1 ranking.
The No. 9-seeded Williams, at 37 the oldest woman in the field, picked up a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Viktoria Kuzmova, a 19-year-old qualifier from Slovakia who is ranked 135th.
Williams entered the U.S. Open as one of eight women with a chance to rise atop the WTA rankings.
It was the first tour-level main draw match of Kuzmova’s career, the 967th for Williams, who won the title at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001.
Williams was up a set, plus a break in the second at 2-0, when she faltered. Kuzmova broke for 2-1, then pulled at even at 3-all before taking three games in a row to force a third set. But Williams righted herself there, breaking for a 2-0 lead, then digging out of a love-40 hole for 3-0.
American Sloane Stephens advanced with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over 2015 runner-up Roberta Vinci.
Failing to get out of the first round was seventh-seeded Johanna Konta, who was stunned by 78th-ranked Serbian Aleksandra Krunic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Konta was a semifinalist at Wimbledon last month and was one of eight women who had a shot at the No. 1 ranking going into Flushing Meadows.
On the men’s side, John Isner, the highest-ranked American man (No. 10), delivered 22 aces and was broken only once in a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the U.S. Open’s first round.
No. 21 David Ferrer of Spain was beaten by qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. No. 32 Robin Haase of the Netherlands was the other seeded player to fall early.
Moving on along with Cilic were No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 28 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
Women’s winners included No. 13 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, No. 18 Caroline Garcia of France, No. 31 Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, and No. 30 Julia Goerges of Germany.
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