The surprises started early at the Australian Open on Day 4, with No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza becoming the highest seeded player to leave the women’s draw just minutes after No. 6 Anett Kontaveit lost.
Not long after, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka served a dozen double faults in the first set and appeared to be on the verge of defeat in the second round before recovering to keep Wang Xinyu in 100th place back with 1-6, 6- 4, 6-2.
Muguruza never managed to earn a single breakpoint and made a total of 33 unforced errors, more than double the opponent’s total, in a 6-3, 6-3 loss to Alize Cornet under a clear blue and cloudless sky at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. .
“A little surprised by my level. I’m also a little disappointed,” said Muguruza, who won the season-ending WTA final in 2021. “I feel like my shots were not as accurate and precise. I also feel like my aggressive play was not so aggressive today. “
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Here’s how unexpected the result was: Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion and twice a major-two, including reaching the final of the Australian Open in 2020.
And the 61st ranked Cornet? She appears in the 63rd major tournament of her career – and the 60th in a row – but has never been further than the fourth round.
Cornet gets a chance to match it when she plays Saturday, her 32nd birthday.
She called herself “a little bit (of) a dinosaur.”
“I do not know how many years I have left,” Cornet said. “Today was a perfect gift I could give myself and I really hope the journey will go even further for me.”
Sam Stosur’s 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 10 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova completed the 2011 US Open champion’s 20th and final singles campaign at the Australian Open.
“I have done more than I ever thought possible. I dreamed of winning a Grand Slam (singles title) and I could not have asked for anything more,” Stosur told the Kia Arena audience.
Muguruza said she was not feeling well physically and noted that the start of this season was “kind of stressful” because COVID-19 spread through her support team and she was separated from them for two weeks.
Kontaveit, who lost to Muguruza in the title fight at the WTA Finals, was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by 19-year-old Clara Tauson from Denmark.
“I just went in there and believed I could win, but it was not like I was going to win,” said Tauson, who is making his third-round debut by a major against 2019 Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins. “It was more: ‘I can win, but we’ll see what happens’.”
Sabalenka finished with 19 double faults, including nine in her first two service fights, in her victory over Wang. She said she regained her composure during a quick trip to the locker room after the first set.
The US Open and last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist said she had “a lot of experience playing without the serve”, and she had assured herself that she had enough other weapons to win “even if you can not serve.”
Sabalenka, who entered the first major of the year with a chance to reach the top spot, has had a choppy start to 2022, with her service problems including 39 double faults contributing to losses in the first round at tuneup events in Adelaide.
She meets No. 31-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, second in 2019 at Roland Garros, who beat Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 7-5.
Nr. 7 Iga Swiatek, 2020 French Open champion, No. 19 Elise Mertens, Sorana Cirstea and Maddison Inglis, who beat Hailey Baptiste 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2, were among the other women who advanced . Zhang Shuai of China moved into the third round as No. 12 Elena Rybakina withdrew from their match while trailing 6-4, 1-0.
On the men’s side, fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Sebastian Baez 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 in a second-round match with two former junior world No. 1 players.
Other winners among the men included No. 5 Andrey Rublev, No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 20 Taylor Fritz, 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, No. 32 Alex de Minaur and 70th-ranked Maxime Cressy in U.S. No. 24 Dan Evans went further when the player he was to face in the second round, Arthur Rinderknech, pulled out with an injured wrist.
Australian wildcard feature Chris O’Connell upset 13-seeded Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, the highest-ranked man in the draw after the two-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was deported for failing to meet the host country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements, played against Nick Kyrgios in a night match.
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