Delayed in her start to 2022, Belinda Bencic needed little time to get off and running and reach the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic.
The reigning Olympic gold medalist, unseeded this week at the WTA 500 event, needed just 69 minutes to defeat Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia, 6-3, 6-2, inside Ken Rosewall Arena. Bencic never faced break point in victory and broke Haddad Maia three times on four chances.
"It's very tricky to play the first match of the year. I actually felt well today," Bencic said on-court in victory. "I think it's just about taking it easy, not putting so much pressure at the start of the year, to just take time to get into it."
Sprinting past southpaws: Playing against Haddad Maia for the first time, Bencic had a history of success against left-handers to draw from — including a win over Marketa Vondrousova in Tokyo last summer to clinch gold.
In total in 2021, she posted a 9-2 record against left-handers, and Tuesday's victory was her fifth win in a row against a lefty.
Up next for Bencic: Bencic will next face either a qualifier or a lucky loser for a spot in the quarterfinals, in the form of either Mexico's Giuliana Olmos or France's Oceane Dodin.
Ajla Tomljanovic advances to face Paula Badosa
Following the withdrawal of World No.1 Ashleigh Barty from the field and first-round defeats by wildcards Priscilla Hon and Astra Sharma, the locals in Sydney had something to cheer about thanks to Ajla Tomljanovic.
The second highest-ranking Aussie behind Barty moved through to the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Slovak qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, moving through to a showdown against No.5 seed Paula Badosa.
Tomlajnovic's two career victories against Schmiedlova have come nearly four years apart, with a dramatic 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) tilt in Monterrey, Mexico, inaugurating their head-to-head back in 2018. After racing out to a one-set lead, buoyed by a 3-0 start, Tomljanovic rallied from that score line in the second set. Trailing 3-0, and 0-40 on serve, the World No.45 won six straight games to wrap up the match.
Words from the winner: "Those two sets, it was 2 and 3, but it felt like almost a three-setter. There were so many long rallies. I lost my focus a little bit to get down 3-0, but she played really well the whole match. I'm really happy to be through," Tomljanovic said.
"She won two matches already and she's used to the conditions a bit more, maybe ... [at 0-3, 0-40], I was thinking that this might, most likely, go into a third but I still wanted to keep playing good tennis so I had the momentum going into the third. I guess that that mentality helps you to keep believing that you can turn things around as well."
Tomljanovic and Badosa have never played.