TOKYO • Garbine Muguruza started her reign as the new world No. 1 with a straight-sets win over Olympic champion Monica Puig to ease into the quarter-finals of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo yesterday.
The Wimbledon champion broke her opponent twice in the first set and was even more dominant in the second as she romped to a 6-4, 6-0 triumph.
"The last time I played her it didn't go my way at all," the Spaniard, who has already booked her spot at the WTA Finals in Singapore next month, told reporters.
"I'm also happy to win my first match as No. 1. To be honest nothing has really changed but I know every match is going to be even tougher now."
When reminded that she had entered the tournament five years ago as a qualifier, she added: "I improved so much and I think everybody can see it."
A booming serve down the middle sealed the first set for Muguruza, who seemed intent on hitting the fur off the ball in her first match since reaching the top of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings last week. The 23-year-old, chasing her third title of the year, roared through the second, a backhand pass giving her a 3-0 lead to effectively kill off any hopes Puig had of mounting a comeback.
The Puerto Rican, who upset Muguruza 6-1, 6-1 in their only other meeting on her way to winning a shock gold medal at last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics, fell apart thereafter as her Spanish tormentor brought the match to a close with an ace after 74 minutes.
Earlier, world No. 4 Karolina Pliskova appeared to suffer no ill-effects of playing without a coach when the Czech swept aside Poland's Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the last eight.
The 25-year-old, who split with coach David Kotyza last week, capitalised on an early break to win the first set in a little more than half an hour.
"I felt great today on the court," second seed Pliskova, who is chasing a fourth title of the year, told reporters. "I think my serve was working well... I'm really happy with my win today. The No. 1 ranking is not really my goal. It would be great to end the year there, but my aim right now is just to try to win more titles."
Pliskova - fourth in the Race to Singapore - also looks set to qualify for the Oct 22-29 WTA Finals. The top eight singles players will qualify for the US$7 million (S$9.44 million) showpiece tournament.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
PAN PACIFIC OPEN
Q-finals: StarHub Ch203, tomorrow, 11am