Birmingham - Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza's preparations for the defence of her big title took a blow when she lost in the second round of the Birmingham Classic on Thursday.
Her conqueror by 6-2, 6-4 was Barbora Strycova, a tenacious Czech with a good record at this tournament, but not yet a Grand Slam contender and languishing several places outside the world top 20.
Muguruza sometimes looked languid in responding to the challenge of a feisty and hard-working opponent, and occasionally became irritated by the difficult windy conditions.
She generated more drive and momentum in the second set, during which she led 4-2, only to lose the advantage again when she decided to be bold and was unable to make her net attacks count.
The gusty conditions contributed to the double fault which concluded her first break of serve in the first set, and perhaps to the double fault halfway through the penultimate game, when she dropped serve for the third time.
"She didn't let me really get into the match," the top-seeded Muguruza said.
"I wish I could play more matches, but nothing really worries me. I just want to learn and next time I face her, I want to win. I'm going to practice more to get ready for Wimbledon (in 11 days)."
Strycova reached the quarter-finals here for a third time."I like to fight, on and off the court," Strycova said. "Sometimes you fight and get a reward."You have to play tricky in these conditions, and I did that, although I admit in that last game I was very nervous."
Muguruza lost in the semi-finals here last year but at least gained four useful warmup matches before Wimbledon. This time, she has had only two. Maybe a good augury is that she lost to Strycova the week afterwards at Eastbourne, and still produced her best at the grass court Grand Slam during the following two weeks.
Earlier, defending champion Petra Kvitova beat Daria Gavrilova, a troublesome opponent in the past, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
Gavrilova won their last two matchups being stubborn and mobile enough to contain Kvitova's uncompromising hitting. But the wind pushed and pulled the Australian into errors at important moments.
During Gavrilova's first two service games, she committed four double faults and lost both service games, helping the third-seeded Kvitova to a rampant start."
The conditions were tough in that wind," acknowledged Kvitova, who delivered five double faults herself. "But that's fine. The grass helped me for sure. We hadn't played each other on this surface before."