Australian Open: Sakkari wins first Grand Slam match in a year

Greek eighth seed Maria Sakkari won her first Grand Slam match in a year with victory over Japan’s Nao Hibino at the Australian Open.

The 28-year-old went out in the first round of the last three Grand Slams but needed just 71 minutes to win 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a difficult match emotionally but I’m happy,” she said.

Later on Sunday, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka begins her title defence against German Ella Seidel.

Elsewhere, Danish wildcard and 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the second round after Polish 20th seed Magda Linette retired through injury.

Former world number one Wozniacki, appearing at the Melbourne Grand Slam for the first time since coming out of retirement last year, led Linette 5-2 in the opening set when the 31-year-old took a medical timeout and returned with strapping on her leg.

Clearly in discomfort, she attempted to continue but lost the opening set before Wozniacki ruthlessly broke in the first game of the second and Linette called time on her Australian Open campaign at 6-2 2-0.

Sakkari, who will face Russian Elina Avanesyan in the second round, endured a difficult 2023 with early exits at all four majors, her best result at a Grand Slam coming in Melbourne where she reached the third round.

But she managed to squash any nerves with a dominant performance, cruising to victory without dropping a point on her first serve in the second set.

“You’re always nervous, you want to perform well. When you’re a top seed you’re always going to play players who do well against you. It was a difficult match today emotionally but I’m happy I managed to do the job right and play a good second set,” she said.

Sakkari has now won her first four matches of the year for the first time since 2021 after she secured three victories for her country at the United Cup.

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