Garbine Muguruza blames Covid disruption for shock Australian Open exit to Alize Cornet

World No 3 beaten in straight sets at Melbourne Park while sixth seed Kontaveit also heads for exit

A frustrated Garbine Muguruza druring her second-round defeat against Alize Cornet at the Australian Open. EPA
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Garbine Muguruza has blamed Covid-19 for her early from the Australian Open after the world No 3 was beaten in straight sets by French veteran Alize Cornet on Thursday.

The 2020 runner-up at Melbourne Park was widely seen as a serious contender for the first Grand Slam of the year after an impressive season last time out that included victories in Chicago and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, before clinching the WTA finals in Mexico.

But the two-time Slam winner was dispatched 6-3, 6-3 in Round 2 at Melbourne Park said her preparations had been hit hard after her team tested positive for Covid.

As they were in isolation, Muguruza had to train by herself for a two weeks and while she said that that would not usually bother her, it was not ideal in pre-season.

“It's been a pretty stressful start of the year also with my team. They all got Covid before coming here. We were, like, for 15 days apart,” said the 28-year-old, who won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon a year later.

“It was hard for me for the preparation to come to the Aussie swing and play and perform well. That was tricky a little bit. Physically here I wasn't also feeling my best.

“It's a tricky part of the year also. The pre-season, the start of the season, you are doing the last touches. You kind of want to continue working. That threw me a little bit off.

“Although I had time here to prepare and everything, yeah, I think the combination of everything I think didn't help me.”

Muguruza struggled with her serve against Cornet and hit 33 unforced errors. “It's a tough day,” she added. “My serve wasn't there, I think my shots weren't there also. Tactically I think I wasn't doing the right decisions either,” she said. “On top of that she played very well, very solid game.”

Cornet advanced to the third round for the first time since 2018 and will face Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, who defeated Britain's Heather Watson 7-6, 6-4.

Sixth seed Anett Kontaveit is also out after the Estonian was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Clara Tauson. “It’s the first time I’m in the third round of a Slam,” said the Danish teenager, who also defeated a top-10 opponent for the first time. “Playing a player like her to reach it, it’s a really big achievement for me. Obviously it was one of the things I really wanted to do, to beat the good players in the bigger tournaments.”

Serving woes continued for Aryna Sabalenka but the second seed still managed to beat China’s Wang Xinyu 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, despite 19 double faults.

The Belarusian lost her opening two matches of the season amid a plethora of double faults and, four matches into 2022, her tally now stands at 70.

Seventh seed Iga Swiatek — the 2020 French Open champion — has had a much easier time of things so far and she eased to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Rebecca Peterson, but it was the end of the road in singles for Australian veteran Sam Stosur, who was beaten 6-2, 6-2 by Russia's 10th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, will only play doubles after this tournament. She said: “It was a good match. I actually feel like I played pretty well, so I’m happy with the fact that that was the last one. I still feel good about what I was able to do out there. Pavs was just too good.

“I think from that aspect, it was nice to finish against someone like her. To finish with someone you know and really respect as a person and player, that was I guess a perfect ending. So I’m very happy.”

Zhang Shuai of China moved into the third round when Kazakhstan 12th seed Elena Rybakina retired from their match while trailing 6-4, 1-0.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 9:08 AM