Aiava gives top seed Halep a scare
Tomljanovic and Cabrera were edged in openers at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
World No.1 Simona Halep has overcome an ankle injury to see off the challenge of powerhouse Australian teen Destanee Aiava in the first round of the Australian Open.
The Romanian needed a medical time-out after rolling her left ankle early in the second set, but hung tough to win 7-6 (5) 6-1 – her first victory at Melbourne Park since 2015.
“It was a very tough match. She’s hitting the ball really well,” said two-time French Open runner-up Halep.
“I fought hard. I believed I could win this match.”
Halep will undergo further treatment ahead of Thursday’s second-round encounter against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park back in 2014.
Halep paid tribute to Aiava, whose raw power has drawn comparisons with 23-time major champion Serena Williams.
“She is very talented and powerful,” said Halep, who is coached by Australian Darren Cahill.
“I think she is going to be very good in the future.
“I can say she is a little bit like Serena … and she looks like her.”
Earlier on Tuesday, 29th seed Lucie Safarova had too much firepower in a 7-5 6-3 passage past Ajla Tomljanovic.
Safarova, reigning doubles champion at Melbourne Park, stole an early break, before the Aussie restored parity with a fizzing forehand return winner for 4-4 on the scoreboard.
Three games in a row sent the world No.29 a set up, but the left-hander met more stern resistance in the second set. Locked at 3-3, Safarova hooked a curving forehand passing shot just out of Tomljanovic’s reach to clinch the pivotal break.
Lizette Cabrera defied her ranking to push world No.70 Beatriz Haddad Maia in a finely poised match.
The Brazilian had cruised past Cabrera at Hobart last week to the loss of just five games, but the 20-year-old Australian sauntered to an early 3-0 advantage.
However, the world No.70 soon found her groove and took the first set into a tiebreak, which she dominated, ahead of building on that momentum for a 4-1 second set lead.
World No.161 Cabrera fought on valiantly and was able to chalk up 4-4. The Aussie youngster fended off break point with a sublime, disguised drop shot, but the Brazilian soon booked a second round ticket in straight sets.