By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Third-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a grand slam winner who has taken down world number one Serena Williams, would be judged by most standards as a serious threat to grab the U.S. Open title.
But the 22-year-old French Open champion downplayed her chances following a 2-6 6-0 6-3 win over Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens in the opening round on Monday, telling the courtside crowd it would take a miracle for her to reach the final.
While it might not require divine intervention, Muguruza's record at the year's final grand slam indicates she will need to produce something special, having never ventured beyond the second round in three previous visits to Flushing Meadows.
Beyond her resume and ranking, the French Open champion's opening match offered little hint that a second grand slam is there for her taking.
The Spaniard needed almost two sloppy hours to dispose of Mertens, committing seven double faults while converting just six of 15 break chances while the 137th-ranked Belgian made the most of her opportunities, breaking Muguruza four of five times.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)