WTA

Pliskova and Kerber through first round in Strasbourg, Muguruza comfortable in Morocco

By Sports Desk May 16, 2022

Top seeds Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber strolled to straight-sets wins in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, keeping the two former world number ones on course for a final meeting.

Having endured an injury-hit season to date, world number eight Pliskova made the perfect start to her campaign in France with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Ukrainian 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk. 

Kerber, who is only missing a victory at the French Open – which begins later this month – to complete a Career Grand Slam, overcame teenager Diane Parry 6-3 6-4 in her opener, setting up a round-of-16 clash with world number 45 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Some of the other big names participating in Strasbourg, however, were not so lucky, with 5th and 6th seeds Shuai Zhang and Sloane Stephens crashing to first-round exits.

Shuai went down 6-2 6-3 to Belgium's Maryna Zanevska and Stephens capitulated to a 2-6 6-4 6-1 loss to Nefisa Berberovic, while Heather Watson set up a last-16 meeting with eighth seed Magda Linette by beating Katharina Hobgarski 6-4 6-1.

Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza made a winning start to her campaign at the Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, as the world number 10 builds towards a tilt at French Open glory having triumphed at Roland Garros back in 2016.

Muguruza had few difficulties in beating Anna Danilina 6-3 6-2, and will face Martina Trevisan in the round-of-16 after the Italian beat China's You Xiadoi 6-0 6-4.

Third seed Nuria Parrizas-Diaz had to come through a more difficult challenge in Rabat, overcoming Carol Zhao 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 6-2, while eighth seed Anna Kalinskaya was the highest-ranked player to fall at the first hurdle, going down 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to Lucia Bronzetti.

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    Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray took two hours and 43 minutes to record a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over the Australian, maintaining his record of having never fallen at the first hurdle in SW19.

    Murray is making just his second Wimbledon appearance since 2017 and is looking to better last year's run to the third round, where he suffered a straight-sets reverse against Denis Shapovalov.

    Having endured a spate of injuries and undergone two hip surgeries since his last Wimbledon triumph in 2016, the 35-year-old said he will enjoy every opportunity he gets to play in front of a home crowd on Centre Court.

    "It's amazing to be back out here again with a full crowd after the last few years, amazing atmosphere," he said.

    "Obviously I'm getting on a bit now, so I don't know how many more opportunities I'll get to play on this court. I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here now.

    "I'm glad I managed to get through and hopefully I'll get another match on here in a couple of days."

    After fighting back to beat the world number 74, Murray expressed his hope he could grow into the tournament as he advances. 

    "I thought I did well to rebound after the first set, he likes playing on the grass, he's come back from a hip surgery himself in January and was playing very well," he added.

    "Once I started to find my returns a little bit more as the match went on, I felt a bit more comfortable and did well to get through.

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    Murray will face big-serving American John Isner in the second round on Wednesday, having won each of the duo's eight previous head-to-head meetings.

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    "I didn't expect to move as well as I did. I mean, I played really well, I felt really well playing on grass and I still don't know how I served [so well].

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