Qualifier Voegele topples fourth-seeded Stephens at Indian Wells

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Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele is through to the third round at Indian Wells with an upset win over fourth-seeded American Sloane Stephens (AFP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)
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Indian Wells (United States) (AFP) - Sloane Stephens's struggles continued Friday as the fourth-ranked American fell 6-3, 6-0 to Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele in her opening match at Indian Wells.

Voegele, currently ranked 109th in the world after reaching a career high of 42, won the last eight games of the match to sweep into the third round in just 68 minutes.

It's the second tournament in a row that 2017 US Open winner Stephens has been toppled by a qualifier, coming on the heels of a straight-sets defeat to 172nd-ranked Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia in Acapulco.

Voegele's victory is perhaps less of a shocker. She has now won the last four of five career meetings with Stephens.

Voegele, 28, broke Stephens five times in the match, including three breaks in the second set and saved all three break points she faced.

Stephens said the windy weather was a factor, but conceded it affected her opponent just as much.

"I didn't play well," Stephens said. "It was unfortunate that I lost the second set 6-0. It happens."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza breezed into the third round on a blustery day in the California desert, defeating American Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-3.

"I think we played good, considering the wind," Muguruza said. "I was happy with finding my game, even if it's not a day that you can hit the ball and feel great."

Muguruza, seeded 20th, next faces another former world number one -- either 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka, who highlighted the night session on the main stadium court.

Williams, seeded 10th, has won 17 of 21 meetings with Azarenka, but the Belarusian won their most recent clash, in the Indian Wells final in 2016.

Azarenka, trying to claw her way back among the game's elite from her current 48th in the world, is coming off a first-round win over compatriot Vera Lapko.

Whatever the outcome, Muguruza was looking forward to the challenge and not at all dismayed by the fact that it will come so early in the tournament.

"I think it's great," the Spaniard said. "That's the matches that I feel are exciting, that I want to play."

World number two Simona Halep was also in action on Friday, taking on Czech Barbora Strycova for a place in the third round.

World number one and defending champion Naomi Osaka was due to open her campaign on Saturday against Kristina Mladenovic.

France's Mladenovic upset Osaka in Dubai last month in the Japanese star's first match since she lifted her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.