NEW YORK • Third-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a Major champion who has taken down world No. 1 Serena Williams, would be judged by most standards as a serious threat to win the US Open.
But the 22-year-old French Open champion played down her chances following a 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens in the opening round on Monday.
She told the crowd it would take a miracle for her to reach the final.
Muguruza has never progressed beyond the second round in three previous visits to Flushing Meadows.
"I think it is different. Someone that has reached the last rounds of the tournaments you believe, maybe I can do it again," said the world No. 3, who needed courtside treatment for breathing problems after dropping the first set. "You have more expectations, that's for sure.
"For sure, maybe a lot of people are talking. All this kind of stuff that I cannot control... if I cannot control it, I don't put it in my bag."
Her opening match offered little evidence that a second Grand Slam title is there for the taking.
She needed almost two sloppy hours to dispose of Mertens, committing seven double faults while converting just six of 15 break points. The 137th-ranked Belgian made the most of her opportunities, breaking Muguruza four of five times.
The Spaniard stunned the tennis world by overpowering Williams to win the French Open title in June and could take the world No. 1 spot from the American this fortnight.
A self-described country girl, Muguruza is not a big fan of the bright lights of New York. But she had better prepare herself for the Big Apple spotlight, which will get brighter with each victory.
"For me, it's difficult during the tournament," said Muguruza, who will next meet 48th-ranked Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.
"I came one week earlier here to prepare. I felt there's more movement, more noise, more stuff. It's well known also because of the environment and the crowd and the vibes, that feeling that brings New York. I think it's also special. There's a lot of people. They're watching you. Maybe it's not as silent as Wimbledon, that everybody is like this, but I enjoy."