Garbine Muguruza had to fight from a break down in the third to fend off teen Coco Gauff 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 in the second round at the Rome Masters.
Playing in her first WTA-level clay event, the 16-year-old Gauff led the former French champion 2-0 in the third set before the Spaniard won six of the last seven games.
“It was a tough match,” Muguruza said. “The first set was tight, it could have gone either way. I was happy it went my way after a good fight.
“In the second set, I missed a couple of shots. I didn’t take the opportunities I had and she was there the whole time.
“Then in the third set, it was just a battle. I managed to be solid, to play my game and to take the opportunities I didn’t in the second set.”
Muguruza will now meet No. 7 seed Johanna Konta who won in straights over Irina Camila Begu.
The other marquee match on the day turned out to be an absolute blowout as US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka destroyed Sofia Kenin 6-0, 6-0 in a stunning scoreline.
“I think my consistency was the key to the scoreline,” Azarenka said. “I feel like I played really smart tennis today: I was able to use a lot of court, I was able to use a lot of different pace. So I’m very happy with that. But the key was definitely being able to maintain the level that I started with.”
In this battle of Australian Open champions, Azarenka finished with just four unforced errors and never faced a break point.
“I was really more focused on what I can do today on the court, than on what she does well,” Azarenka said. “So I think that was the difference, I was able to insist on my level and insist on my pace.”
One of the French Open favorites Kiki Bertens was bounced out of Rome by Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-4.
On a full day of third round play on Friday, top seed Simona Halep returns to duel Dayana Yastremska. Azarenka takes on Daria Kasatkina and Elina Svitolina meets Svetlana Kuznetsova.
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