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Aryna Sabalenka began the defence of her Australian Open title with a 53-minute drubbing of German teenager Ella Seidel.
The second seed was made to wait until nearly midnight by Novak Djokovic’s battle with Dino Prizmic but her encounter with an 18-year-old qualifier could not have been more different.
Sabalenka dropped only 10 points in the first set and had two match points for a double bagel before completing a 6-0 6-1 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
“I’m super happy to be back in Melbourne,” said the Belarusian, who lifted her first slam silverware 12 months ago. “Last time I had incredible memories from here, unforgettable I would say. It feels so great to be back and feel the support.”
Caroline Wozniacki’s first match at Melbourne Park for four years ended prematurely when opponent Magda Linette, a semi-finalist here last year, withdrew trailing 6-2 2-0.
Wozniacki won her only grand slam title in Australia in 2018 and retired following a third-round loss two years later before having two children and then coming out of retirement last summer.
“I feel very comfortable playing here,” said the Dane. “I feel comfortable with the ball. I feel very just thrilled to be here. Immediately when I stepped foot on these courts, in this arena, I felt right at home. I think it’s a special place for me and always will be.”
American Amanda Anisimova is another player on the comeback trail having stepped away from the tour last May over concerns for her mental health.
The 22-year-old, who first reached the fourth round here five years ago, did not pick up a racket for four months but has returned rejuvenated and pulled off the upset of the day by defeating 13th seed Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 6-4.
“I’m just here for the journey right now and seeing how much I can progress,” she said. “I think I would take it with whatever outcome I would get. But I am happy with the wins, and I really hope that I can build on from it.
“The most important thing is that I feel a lot more refreshed. I’m enjoying practising. I’m enjoying every second that I’m out there. Even when I was down today, I was still just enjoying the challenge.
“I’m just happy with how I feel coming back. I feel like I was very burned out while I was playing, and that really wasn’t a nice feeling.”
Also through to the second round are a pair of 16-year-olds in Russian Alina Korneeva, last year’s junior champion, and Czech Brenda Fruhvirtova.
The most heralded 16-year-old in the current game, Mirra Andreeva, will join them if she can win her opening match on Monday.