May 26, 2017 / 4:55 PM / 3 months ago

Reigning champ Muguruza facing nightmare opener against Schiavone

Tennis - ATP - Rome Open - Garbine Muguruza of Spain v Venus Williams of the United States - Rome, Italy - 19/5/17 - Muguruza of Spain returns the ball.Stefano Rellandini

PARIS (Reuters) - Garbine Muguruza was invited to appear at the pre French Open draw ceremony on Friday -- one of the duties of being the reigning champion.

She did not stay for the important part though, when her first-round opponent was revealed. Which is just as well as she might have looked a little uncomfortable at the prospect of facing 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone.

Schiavone, at 36, might not be quite the force she once was but is still a ferocious claycourt warrior and will be ready to capitalise on Muguruza's fragile confidence.

Spain's Muguruza looked ready to establish herself as a dominant force in the women's game when she overpowered Serena Williams in last year's final.

But she has not kicked on.

She failed to win a match on the clay in Stuttgart and Madrid. Although she did enjoy a run to the semi-final in Rome, she retired with a neck injury against Elina Svitolina.

Talking to reporters on Friday she said the neck problem was getting better and she will need to be 100 percent against Schiavone, who also reached the Roland Garros final in 2011.

"I think it's an interesting match," the 23-year-old said.

"It's very strange to find first round two past champions. And I saw her. She's playing good. She played Bogota and another tournament where she reached the final or won. So I think she's playing good on clay. It's a good match to start.

"Doesn't matter really who I'm going to face. It's gonna be an interesting tournament for me to see how I can play, how my feelings are. And that's it."

Muguruza, coached by Sam Sumyk who used to guide former world number one Victoria Azarenka, said she had been frustrated with her form since winning the French Open.

"I think it was hard for me to think that I should reproduce that. So that created a little bit of frustration," she said.

"It's kind of -- I know it's very hard, but how can I not play like this every week, or if I have it?"

Reporting by Martyn Herman in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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