Australian Open: Aryna Sabalenka weathers Storm Sanders challenge to make second round

Aryna Sabalenka had to dig deep in her first round Australian Open encounter against Storm Sanders, eventually winning 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

Aryna Sabalenka in action at the Australian Open. (Twitter: @AustralianOpen)

It’s not often that a top star is tested considerably in the early stages of a Grand Slam. Yet that is exactly what happened to Aryna Sabalenka in her first round Australian Open match.

Facing local star Storm Sanders, Sabalenka won 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. And while the second two sets seem like easy going on first reading, it wasn’t like that at all.

The Belarusian star was pinned back early in the match and duly lost the first set 7-5. In fact, at one point she was on the brink of losing in straight sets.

Having lost the first set, Sabalenka was one point away from trailing 4-1 in the second set. But she fought back hard and won the game, before rallying to win the second set 6-3.

She wound up winning 9 games on the trot, and 11 of the next 13 games as she wrapped up the match. Sanders, clearly shocked at the kind of counter-attack being put in front of her, wilted.

Sanders did not look anywhere near her best in the final set. She did still show flashes of brilliance, but the fact she only won 2 games says it all.

By the end of the match, it was all Sabalenka; and it seemed hard to believe she had been on the verge of an early elimination.

Australian Open Day 2 wrap

Simona Halep got her Australian Open campaign off to a winning start. The 2018 runner-up beat Magdalena Frech of Poland 6-4, 6-3 in their first-round battle.

Sorana Cirstea bundled 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova out of the Slam for the second straight year. Cirstea registered a 6-2, 6-2 win to stun the former world number 2.

Local hero Maddison Inglis also registered an upset, beating Canada’s Leylah Fernandez. Inglis took an hour and 23 minutes to win the match 6-4, 6-2.

Anett Kontaveit avoided any pitfalls of an early upset as she beat Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3 to ease into the second round.

Elise Mertens of Belgium defeated Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-4, 7-5 in just under two hours. Mertens had three more winners and five fewer unforced errors than Zvonareva as she cantered to a win.

Garbine Muguruza also got off to a winning start with a 6-3, 6-4 win over France’s Clara Burel to advance into the second round.

No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek lost three of the first four games to British qualifier Harriet Dart. However, she won the last 11 games to register a 6-3, 6-0 victory in her opening match.

Sportslumo Desk

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