MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Garbine Muguruza struggled to close out the contest but reached the second round of the Australian Open comfortably enough with a 6-3 6-4 victory over feisty young Frenchwoman Clara Burel on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.
It was the perfect start to the fortnight for the third seed, enough of a challenge to get into the rhythm of the tournament but never any question that she would get through it.
"It felt very good," said the former Wimbledon and French Open champion.
"I didn't know really who I was facing, we've never played before. She was very tricky."
Burel showed plenty of fight and managed to break Muguruza in the opening set but her own serve was brittle and 12 double faults dug a hole she was always going to struggle to get out of.
The tall Spaniard, who has never lost a first round match in 10 visits to Melbourne Park, came into the net to great effect to go a set and a break up but was broken again when serving for the match.
The 28-year-old broke Burel for a fifth time in the next game to get the job done, however, and moves onto to a contest with another Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet.
After losing to Sofia Kenin in the final two years ago, Muguruza took eventual champion Naomi Osaka to three sets in the fourth round last year.
Unless Emma Raducanu reprises her fairytale run at last year's U.S. Open, Muguruza has a reasonably straightforward path to the fourth round, where she could meet another former Melbourne Park finalist in Simona Halep.
"You're always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign," she added.
"I'm very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)