Aryna Sabalenka topples Ajla Tomljanovic to move on in Moscow
Aryna Sabalenka returned to the court for the first time since her run to the US Open semi-finals, starting positively in Russia.
The Belarusian is the number one seed at the WTA 500 Kremlin Cup. She overcame Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-1.
The win comes after Sabalenka was denied a shot at a fifth WTA 1000 title when she was forced to withdraw from Indian Wells due to contracting Covid.
The world number two would have been the top seed at the California event as Ashleigh Barty chose not to compete.
Like second seed Garbine Muguruza, Sabalenka is making her main draw debut at the event. She attempted to enter the tournament through qualifying in 2016 as an 18-year-old.
The Kremlin Cup presents Sabalenka with the opportunity to capture three titles in a season for the third successive year.
The 23-year-old already has a WTA 500 and WTA 1000 crown under her belt in 2021. Those titles came in Adu Dhabi and Madrid respectively.
On top of those results, Sabalenka has had a career-best season at Slam events. Having advanced to a Major fourth round just once before 2021, she equalled that record at the Australian Open before reaching back to back semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
In Moscow, Sabalenka will next face home talent Alexandrova Ekaterina. The Russian dispatched Kalinina Anhelina 6-4, 6-1 in her second round tie.