Goodbye, Garbiñe: No. 3 Muguruza bows out at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia – The surprises started early at the Australian Open. No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza became the highest-seeded player to exit at Melbourne Park, just minutes after No. 6 Anett Kontaveit lost.

Muguruza never managed to earn a single break point and made a whopping 33 unforced errors, more than twice her opponent’s total, in a 6-3, 6-3 defeat against Alize Cornet in the second round under a bright blue and cloudless sky at Rod Laver Arena.

“A little bit surprised about my level. I am a little disappointed, too,” said Muguruza, who won the season-ending WTA Finals in 2021. “I feel like my shots weren’t as accurate and precise. I feel, also, my aggressive game wasn’t that aggressive today.”

Here’s how unexpected that result was: Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion and a two-time major runner-up, too, including making it to the final at the Australian Open in 2020.

And the 61st-ranked Cornet? She’s appearing in her 63rd career major tournament – and 60th in a row – but never has been beyond the fourth round.

Cornet will get a chance to equal that showing when she plays Saturday on what will be the Frenchwoman’s 32nd birthday.

She called herself “a little bit (of) a dinosaur.”

“I don’t know how many years I have left,” Cornet said. “Today was a perfect gift I could give myself and I really hope the journey’s going to go even farther for me.”

Muguruza said she didn’t feel at her best physically and noted that the start of this season was “kind of stressful,” because COVID-19 spread through her support team and she was apart from them for two weeks.

Kontaveit, who lost to Muguruza in the title match at the WTA Finals, was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by 19-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark.

“I just went in there believing I could win, but it wasn’t like I have to win,” said Tauson, who will make her debut in the third round at a major against 2019 Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins. “It was more: `I can win, but we’ll see what happens.”‘

Other women advancing included No. 7 Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, who defeated Rebecca Peterson 6-2, 6-2, and No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up at Roland Garros, who beat Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 7-5.

Winners among the men included No. 5 Andrey Rublev, 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and 70th-ranked Maxime Cressy of the U.S. No. 24 Dan Evans moved on when the player he was supposed to face in the second round, Arthur Rinderknech, pulled out with an injured wrist.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.