Muguruza finds her groove

 - Kate Battersby

After a "difficult" first round, the 2016 RG champion wins again to set up a clash with Elina Svitolina.

Garbine Muruguza - Roland-Garros 2019 - 2e tour©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

For the second round in a row at Roland-Garros 2019, Garbine Muguruza found herself up against an opponent she had never played before.

But while she confessed to “a difficult day when I couldn’t find my rhythm” in a three-setter against Taylor Townsend on Sunday, this time unfamiliarity bred content against world No.172 Johanna Larsson, as Muguruza trotted out the comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victor.

This match was switched from Court 1 to Court Suzanne-Lenglen just an hour before the start of play, after Elina Svitolina’s scheduled opponent Kateryna Kozlova withdrew with a virus… and it turns out Muguruza’s reward for victory is an intriguing third-round clash with the Ukrainian No.9 seed.

Against Larsson, there was no sign of the torpor which shrouded the 2016 champion in her first set against Townsend; and of course she did not have the complexity of dealing with a lefty.

Larsson has had a rough old time of it of late, losing eight straight opening rounds before reaching the second stage in defence of her Nurnberg title last week.

She saw off the highly useful Magdalena Rybarikova in the Roland-Garros first round, but in this one an optimistic start could take her only so far. One of the few players to eschew the ubiquitous on-court towel, Larsson was soon figuratively sweating as Muguruza crashed a power forehand return to break for 3-2, after which the Swede could barely get a point on the No.19 seed’s serve.

Muguruza stonewalled any misplaced idea of a revival by plundering 14 of the first 16 points in the second chapter. Naturally she wore her customary expression of near-fury throughout, even – or perhaps particularly – in moments of greatest satisfaction; but this was a good day’s work. Larsson offered some good rallies, but by time Muguruza put away match point, she was winning 83 per cent of her points on her first serve.

“It was a better match than my first one,” Muguruza agreed. “I felt more calm. I really wanted to continue the adventure. I tried to build points a bit more instead of hitting very hard and trying to get a winner. I also used more topspin, and I tried to be more patient.

“Right now in the women's game, if you don't play well you go home very fast. You've got to be competitive and play your A-game all the time.”

Third-round blockbuster

The prospect of Svitolina is intriguing. The Ukrainian leads their completed Tour-level main draw jousts 4-1, with Muguruza retiring from their only clay meeting two years ago in Rome. They have actually met before at Roland-Garros, in 2012 – back in the ancient days when, as teenagers, they were attempting to qualify. Muguruza got the better of things that time, and again in Wimbledon qualifying a month later (although on both occasions ultimately she fell short of the main draw).

“It's a great third round for both of us,” said Muguruza. “Personally, it's the type of match I want to play. Maybe it's a bit too early, but too bad. It will be very interesting. It's going to be a good one.”