The 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was in sensational form, as she slid into the second week of the clay-court Grand Slam for the sixth consecutive year. Muguruza, who needed three sets to get past Taylor Townsend in the opening round, defeated ninth seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 6-3 on Friday.
"I feel very good in this tournament," Muguruza said. "I have always loved it since I was a little girl. I also love the clay court. Yeah, I don't know what is about French Open that gives me always, like, a nice mood and my tennis develops much better."
Both players didn’t get out of the blocks the way they would have liked, trading seven straight breaks. Muguruza consolidated for the first time, and broke again in the next game to close out the opening set. Svitolina took the initial lead for the first time, breaking to go up 3-2 in the second. That didn't last as she never won a game after that.
The first-serve percentage was very low for the two contenders—55 for Muguruza and 54 for Svitolina—but it was the two-time Grand Slam champion who did more with her second serve, especially in the final set. Svitolina, one of the best returners in the sport, had trouble returning Muguruza's deep, heavy shots.
"I have an aggressive type of game," Muguruza said. "At the beginning, we fought, and I managed to hold my serve and to get the first set. I managed to dominate and play cleverly, and that gave results."
Two weeks ago in Rome, Muguruza had retired in the middle of her third-round match against Victoria Azarenka due to a left thigh injury. A former No. 1, her ranking has dipped to No. 19.
Muguruza is aiming for her second Roland Garros trophy, and third Grand Slam overall. In the 2016 final, she beat Serena Williams in straight sets. The following year, she toppled Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final, becoming the first and only player to conquer both sisters in a Slam final.
The 19th-seeded Spaniard will play either 2018 Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens or Polona Hercog for a spot in the quarterfinals. She is 1-1 against Sloane Stephens, with the American winning their last encounter in the fourth round of the 2018 Miami Open. She leads Hercog 1-0.
"I think she's playing good," Muguruza said about her potential showdown against Stephens. "She did final last year here, so obviously she likes to play here. She likes the clay court. So if I play against her, it will be another good match."