Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep had to save three set points in the first set on her way to a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over Jennifer Brady on Tuesday in first-round play at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Brady, a 24-year-old American, had a stellar week last week in the tuneup in Brisbane, eliminating World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and former Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova on her way to the quarterfinals there.
In their only previous meeting, the Romanian Halep needed three sets to fight off Brady last August in Toronto, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
"I knew that she's going to be very motivated at the beginning. We played together a few months ago, and it was very close," Halep told reporters after the match.
"I knew that she has a big forehand. [Her] backhand actually was really good, as well, today. I knew that she's serving well.
"I had just to push her back as much as possible, to make her run, playing a little bit both sides. I served pretty OK, And after that very tough set, in the second set I've been more relaxed. I've been a little bit more aggressive. I tried to finish some points, which I did."
In other action, No. 19 Donna Vekic of Croatia ousted Sharapova 6-3, 6-4, marking the third straight first-round elimination in a Grand Slam tournament for the Russian.
Sharapova, 32, has won five Grand Slam titles, including the 2008 Australian Open, but after a series of injuries, the former World No. 1 has fallen to No. 145, and her ranking is expected to plummet to below 300 after the loss. She told reporters she couldn't predict if this would be her last time playing in Melbourne.
"I don't know," Sharapova said. "I don't know. ... It's tough for me to tell what's going to happen in 12 months' time."
The No. 5 seed, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, advanced with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Great Britain's Katie Boulter. No. 9 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, No. 10 Madison Keys, No. 17 Angelique Kerber of Germany, No. 20 Czech Karolina Muchova and No. 26 Danielle Collins also moved on.
Two Top 25 seeds were eliminated Tuesday in first-round action, however.
Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, three times an Australian Open finalist, upset No. 15 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in just her second tournament after spending six months on the sidelines following wrist surgery. Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan ousted No. 21 Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
--Field Level Media