New York — Garbine Muguruza opened her U.S. Open with an easy victory, looking like a favorite whether she believes it or not.
Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion who has never been past the second round here, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S., 6-0, 6-3 on Monday in just over an hour.
No. 5 Marin Cilic followed her onto Arthur Ashe Stadium and beat American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in his first match since the Wimbledon final, hoping he’s healthy enough to make a run through a men’s field that’s been decimated by injuries.
Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion but had just a 2-4 record in the year’s final major. She acknowledged after her match having a “dark past” at the U.S. Open, but the No. 3 seed is perhaps the hottest player on the women’s tour and is considered one of the favorites here even with her poor previous results.
“Oh, I don’t really care, because I don’t feel — I don’t feel I’m a favorite here, because I never really played very good,” Muguruza said. “I did play good but just didn’t go my way.”
But she’s played great this summer, following her victory over Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final by winning the tuneup event in Cincinnati. The Spaniard has won 16 of her last 18 matches, and with Serena Williams pregnant and not playing and No. 2 Simona Halep facing a difficult opening-round match against former champion Maria Sharapova, Muguruza understands why people are picking her.
“In the paper, people might think that. But you come here and with the conditions and the past, there are certain players that play better and certain players that don’t,” she said.
“So far I’m just thinking that I’m happy that I’m in second round, and that’s what I’m going to take.”
The Halep-Sharapova match on Monday night was a featured match of the opening day of play.
Cilic hadn’t played since losing to Roger Federer in London because of a thigh injury, withdrawing from Montreal and Cincinnati, and is attempting to become the first player in the Open era to win the U.S. Open without playing any matches since Wimbledon.
He’s certainly got a shot, given the absence of top rivals who couldn’t shake off injuries in time for the year’s final Grand Slam. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all pulled out along with Japan’s Kei Nishikori — who Cilic beat in the 2014 final.
On the men’s side, No. 21 David Ferrer of Spain was beaten by qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. No. 32 Robin Haase of the Netherlands was the other seeded player to fall early.
Moving on along with Cilic were No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 28 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
John Isner, the highest-ranked American man, delivered 22 aces and was broken only once in a 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.
Women’s winners included No. 13 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, No. 18 Caroline Garcia of France, No. 31 Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, and No. 30 Julia Goerges of Germany.
Women’s seeded losers included No. 24 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and No. 32 Lauren Davis of the U.S.
Venus Williams shook off a mid-match lapse to improve to 19-0 in the Open’s first round and stay in the hunt for the No. 1 ranking.
The No. 9-seeded Williams, at 37 the oldest woman in the field, picked up a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Viktoria Kuzmova, a 19-year-old qualifier from Slovakia who is ranked 135th.
American Sloane Stephens advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over 2015 runner-up Roberta Vinci. Seventh-seeded Johanna Konta was stunned by 78th-ranked Serbian Aleksandra Krunic, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.