Garbine Muguruza opts for relaxed approach at French Open

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PARIS (AP) If there is one player that should not be afraid of Serena Williams’ return to Grand Slam tennis at the French Open, it’s certainly Garbine Muguruza.

Despite an inconsistent clay-court season so far from Muguruza, the two-time Grand Slam champion from Spain is among the top contenders at Roland Garros, where she won her first major title two years ago by defeating Williams in the final.

Muguruza and Williams have played against each other five times, and the Venezuela-born Muguruza prevailed twice, both times at the French Open. Muguruza’s maiden victory over Williams in her second French Open appearance back in 2014 was a real shock, as she routed the defending champion 6-2, 6-2 in the second round.

This year, the third-ranked Muguruza and Williams could meet in the quarterfinals. Williams is competing at her first Grand Slam event since giving birth to her daughter in September and hasn’t played at a major since winning the Australian Open in January 2017.

“If that happens, it will be the best match for quarterfinals,” Muguruza said.

Muguruza’s preparations for the French Open have been far from ideal, though, winning just two matches on clay. After losing to Daria Kasatkina at the Madrid Open, she lost her opening match to Daria Gavrilova last week in Rome.

But the elegant and powerful Muguruza is not worried. After all, she had lost 6-1, 6-0 against Barbora Strycova in Eastbourne last year in her final warmup tournament before Wimbledon, then won the title at the All England Club.

“It stays less in your system like before, for sure,” she said about her poor performance in Rome. “You move on faster. There is no point to be sad about what happened in Rome, because now it doesn’t really matter. It’s true I didn’t play lots of matches. But I feel like I always had a chance, and they kind of slip away, all the matches somehow, so even if it’s a little bit disappointing, I feel like I was there and I had my chances. Eventually they will come to my side.”

After beating Williams in the 2016 final, Muguruza’s title defense was ended in the fourth round last year by local favorite Kristina Mladenovic of France in front of a partisan crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen.

She said not being the defending champion this year will help her adopt a more relaxed approach. Proof to that, she was unaware of her first-round opponent until a reporter asked her a question about what it felt to be up against former French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round.

“Of course being the defending champion for the first time, it adds a lot of pressure and expectation, and for sure this year you think different,” Muguruza said. “It’s more relaxing, I guess.”

Muguruza was handed a tricky draw in Paris. If she beats Kuznetsova, she could meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the third round, then could be up against American CoCo Vandeweghe, who recently made it to the final in Stuttgart.

The tournament starts Sunday.

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.