By Leighton Ginn
INDIAN WELLS — When Garbine Muguruza said winning her first Grand Slam title wasn’t a culmination, but a beginning for her.
“Once you taste the sweet honey, you want more,” Muguruza said Friday after her second-round victory over Kirsten Flipkens, 6-2, 6-3 in the BNP Paribas Open. “Obviously every time I go to a Grand Slam, I’m superexcited. … You’re more motivated.”
Many, including Muguruza, consider the BNP Paribas Open the “Fifth Slam.” However, Muguruza said she’s more trying to gain her bearings.
She didn’t get many matches to start the year, and then she played the exhibition on Monday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Coming into Friday, she knew she had a difficult opponent in Flipkens. So getting the victory was a relief.
“I didn’t compete in a while,” Muguruza said. “I think it was a difficult match. I think she’s very talented and she can hit some critical shots and she can be tricky. I’m happy because it was not a first, easy match, like a first round. It was a big win for me, actually.”
In fact, while speaking of opening-round wins and majors, Muguruza said the first ones are always the most difficult, despite playing higher-level opponents in the later rounds.
Case in point for Muguruza is her first round at the French Open, where she was pushed to three sets against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Then Muguruza wouldn’t drop another set on her way to the title, which included a straight-sets victory over No. 1 Serena Williams.
“I think the first matches of a Grand Slam are the key matches,” Muguruza said. “I felt that when I went there to French Open and I had a tough round, first one, third set, weather, it was such hard conditions.
“It’s those first matches that are the ones that really you see who is the best player.”
The previous year, Muguruza reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, as well as reached the finals of Wimbledon. So even though she had a difficult opening match, Muguruza always felt she was good enough to win the title.
“It’s true two previous years I lost in the quarterfinals, and I’m, like, I’m not far,” Muguruza said. “I think I’m good on clay. I think I’m playing well. Maybe one year I can go farther than quarterfinals.”
In the third round, Muguruza will face the youngest player in the field, American Kayla Day, who upset 32nd-seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
The 17-year-old Day was the U.S. Open junior champion.