Aus Open: Sabalenka, Garcia and Pliskova cruise into second round

by IANS |

Melbourne, Jan 17 (IANS) Aryna Sabalenka extended her stellar season start, beating Tereza Martincova, while Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia stormed past Katherine Sebov of Canada to reach the women's singles second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Sabalenka defeated the 74th-ranked Czech player Martincova in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 in just 1 hour and 9 minutes. Garcia edged Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov, who was making her Grand Slam main-draw debut, 6-3, 6-0 here at Rod Laver Arena.

The 24-year-old Sabalenka, who won her 11th career title at the Adelaide International 1 last week, has started the year with a 5-0 record for the third time in the last five seasons. She has also won her last 10 Grand Slam first-round matches.

Sabalenka's typical power game was bolstered by supreme steeliness when down break points -- she saved all five she faced. She had to fend off four of those at 1-1 in the first set. Thereafter, she raced through the rest of the opener without the loss of a game.

A similar scenario occurred at 1-0 in the second set, when she fired a rally forehand pass down the line out of nowhere to save Martincova's final break point. Sabalenka went on to hold, then immediately claimed the decisive break for a 2-1 lead en route to the comprehensive victory.

On the other hand, World No.190 Sebov, stuck with Garcia for the first seven games before the French player unleashed a forehand winner to break for 5-3. Garcia slammed two straight aces to end the first set before being mostly untroubled in the second set.

After their win in the opener, Sabalenka and Garcia will face challenging second-round matches, with the Frenchwoman playing 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and Sabalenka meeting upset specialist American Shelby Rogers.

If Sabalenka defeats Rogers, she could potentially face her long-time former doubles partner Elise Mertens in the third round.

In other action at the Margaret Court Arena, former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic breezed through a 6-1, 6-3 win over China's Wang Xiyu.

It was Pliskova's first main-draw win of 2023, and her 23rd main-draw win at the Australian Open in her career. She last lost in the first round at Melbourne Park in her 2013 debut.

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