NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Garbine Muguruza pushed past one of the best players to ever grace the Flushing Meadows hardcourts on Friday (Sept 3), taming Victoria Azarenka 6-4 3-6 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the US Open for only the second time.
Muguruza, a Grand Slam winner at the French Open and Wimbledon, has never enjoyed much success in New York exiting in either the first or second round in seven of her previous eight visits.
Azarenka, however, has made a habit of making deep runs at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
Only Serena and Venus Williams have won more US Open matches than Azarenka, who has finished runner-up three-times at Flushing Meadows, including last year to Naomi Osaka.
"I was facing Victoria, she had so much success in this tournament," said Muguruza.
"I feel like she was comfortable in this court, in these conditions. I was very pumped for the match.
"It's actually my first Arthur Ashe win after almost 10 years."
The ninth seeded Spaniard was the one who looked far more poised on a sun-kissed Arthur Ashe Stadium court as Azarenka slowly unravelled. The two-time Australian Open champion committed seven double faults, including one on her last serve to hand Muguruza one final break and the match.
The match between the former world number one, 1.82m right-handers was as even as their statistics and profiles suggested.
Both have a pair of Grand Slams on their resumes and split four career meetings.
The one big difference being their US Open results.
"This year I just prepared well and say, 'Hey, at some point it's going to change, this might be the year'," said Muguruza.
"I feel also having went through those couple of first tough matches gave me also the feeling that I can do well here.
"I think going through the first rounds always gives you that confidence.
"In the previous years I didn't manage to go through those opening rounds."
The victory sets up what should be an intriguing fourth round clash between Muguruza and eighth seeded French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced with a 6-4 6-2 win over Russian lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova.
"I know her game," said Muguruza. "She has way more confidence now after winning a slam. I can feel it in her shots.
"It's a good round of 16. It's one of the hottest players right now, so good. That's the players I want to face."