French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza has not dropped a set en route to the third round at the Australian Open. Whilst, she is drawn in the top half of the draw, and is seeded to meet, defending champion Angelique Kerber, the Spaniard may be the favorite to progress, should they meet in the quarterfinals as the German's form has been up and down since this year has started.
Meanwhile, Muguruza will face a familiar foe in the third round of the Australian Open, and it will be Latvia's 32nd seed Anastasia Sevastova. Sevastova upset the seventh seed in the second round of the US Open last year and went on to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Although, an injury, hampered her performance in her match with Caroline Wozniacki at Flushing Meadows.
How they got here
Muguruza has started her 2017 Australian Open campaign on a good note, although, a right thigh injury raised fears if she was going to be able to continue throughout the tournament. The seventh-seeded Spaniard saved a set point in her first round match with Marina Erakovic, along with a turning around a 1-4 deficit in the second set. Nonetheless, it was a straight sets victory for Muguruza defeating Erakovic, 7-5, 6-4. In the second round, everyone was wondering if Muguruza would be able to play her best tennis, and the Spaniard's injury fears were dashed as she was able to defeat the hard-hitting American Samantha Crawford, 7-5, 6-4 to reach the third round for the fourth consecutive year.
Sevastova is 26-years-old, and the 32nd seed had a couple years away from professional tennis citing injuries. However, following her run to the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows, it propelled her to a career-high ranking of 30. The Latvian has reached the fourth round in Melbourne before back in 2011 when she lost to Wozniacki, who was the top seed. Sevastova's first round opponent Nao Hibino, retired from the match after Sevastova won the first set 6-4. In the second round, the Latvian eased past Slovakia's Kristina Kucova, 6-3, 6-4 to reach her second consecutive third-round appearance at a Slam.
Muguruza and Sevastova have met on two occasions, and the duo's two meetings have taken place on hard courts with one win apiece. The 32nd seed defeated Muguruza, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round of the US Open, and the former world number two would get her revenge almost immediately in the round of 16 in Tokyo, 6-3, 6-3.
The French Open champion has a golden opportunity to reach the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam hard court event for the first time in her career. Should Muguruza defeat Sevastova, a winnable fourth round tie with Sorana Cirstea or Alison Riske, before a potential quarterfinal tie with Kerber, should be what the Spaniard expects.
Muguruza is full of confidence right now after displaying some of her best performances of the season to date since winning the French Open in Brisbane, when she saved match points against 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur and Daria Kasatkina, before she retired in her semifinal match with Alize Cornet due to the injury that's bothering her now.
Both players possess a good backhand, although Muguruza is the stronger player and overall has more firepower with her big serve when it's firing on all cylinders and her forehand can be a weapon too. However, Sevastova will be looking to give the former world number two a torrid time on the court, and she likes to throw in a few drop shots, which will bother the Spaniard.
This will be the final match scheduled on Day Five at the Australian Open in the Margaret Court Arena, following the men's singles third round match between Kei Nishikori and Lukas Lacko.
Prediction: Muguruza in straight sets