INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - No.9 seed Aryna Sabalenka was made to work in her first BNP Paribas Open match as a Top 10 player.
The Belarusian had to recover from a mid-match wobble against Ajla Tomljanovic, but escaped the challenge in three sets to power into the BNP Paribas Open third round.
Sabalenka came into the California desert looking to regain her world-beating form that had propelled her into the top of the rankings last year. But after starting her 2019 season with a title at the Shenzhen Open, she’s struggled to find her game against Top 10 players, going 0-2 after falling against Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens.
But she was forced to find her best tennis by the resurgent Tomljanovic, who rallied back to take the second set. Sabalenka raised her level when it counted and completed the victory in emphatic style, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in an hour and 41 minutes.
"The first set was pretty confident for me. I was just enjoying and I felt everything on the court was easy for me. In the second set, I lost my focus for a little bit and she took it," the Belarusian told wtatennis.com after the match.
"I was under pressure in the second set and she did well, but in the third set, I was focused on each point. I was 100 percent on, and my focus was from the beginning until the end. I was in the rally, enjoying the fight and enjoying the atmosphere there."
Up next, Sabalenka will take on No.24 seed Lesia Tsurenko, as she seeks to reach the Indian Wells fourth round for the first time.
The Ukranian rallied from a big deficit against American wildcard Jessica Pegula, having trailed 6-3, 4-1 before rallying for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win.
The veteran No.24 seed leads the pair's overall head-to-head, having beaten her in their lone singles meeting at the Hobart International last year with the loss of just two games.