Ash Barty's projected Australian Open final opponent will enter the grand slam without a summer win following another flop in Adelaide.
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka's Open preparations lay in tatters after a 5-7 6-1 7-5 first-round loss to lowly-ranked Swede Rebecca Peterson on Tuesday.
Sabalenka's defeat followed a 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 loss to Slovenia's world No.100 Kaja Juvan in her season opener in the South Australian capital last week.
While Barty is a perfect seven from seven this year after sweeping to the singles and doubles titles at the first of successive Adelaide Internationals, Sabalenka hasn't won in more than two months.
After failing to make the semi-finals of last year's season-ending championships in Mexico following losses to Maria Sakkari and Paula Badosa in the group stages, Sabalenka arrived in Australia needing precious court time.
Instead, the 23-year-old will head to Melbourne Park seriously underdone.
Barty has no such concerns.
The world No.1 opted out of this week's Sydney Tennis Classic, preferring to fly straight to Melbourne to recharge and finetune her game after improving her record against top-10 rivals to 17-1 in the past 12 months.
Barty beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek and world No.14 Elena Rybakina in successive matches, all in straight sets, before teaming with fellow Australian Storm Sanders to also win the doubles in Adelaide.
Sanders crashed back to earth on Tuesday, joining Sabalenka out the Memorial Drive exit gates with a 7-5 6-2 first-round loss to Italian Jasmine Paolini.
But fellow Australian Maddison Inglis progressed to the second round with a 6-4 1-6 6-2 win over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.
Inglis will play Slovenian fourth seed Tamara Zidansek on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals.
"Actually I've never played Tamara, never practiced with her," Inglis said.
"I've got a little bit of work to do tonight to come up with a bit of a game plan for tomorrow.
"I mean, she's obviously a really good player and a really good competitor.
"I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow and hopefully having a battle."
Australian Associated Press
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