World No.1 Iga Swiatek of Poland began her 2023 Australian Open campaign with a hard-fought 6-4, 7-5 win over Germany’s Jule Niemeier on Monday.
Swiatek will face Colombia’s Camila Osorio in the second round on Wednesday.
A semifinalist in Melbourne last year, Swiatek worked hard in her opener. The 21-year-old made clear before the tournament she was not taking Niemeier lightly, and the German once again proved to be a tough matchup for the World No.1.
Facing each other for the second consecutive Slam, Niemeier had already Swiatek to three sets in their last meeting in the Round of 16 at the US Open.
Niemeier maintained sustained pressure on Swiatek’s serve throughout the opening set, but when the Pole needed a clutch to serve or a big backhand down the line, the shots came through. Swiatek withstood the pressure and saved the two break points she faced and then pounced at her first chance to break the German’s serve for the first time to win the opening set.
Niemeier struck back quickly in the second set, earning a first break of the Swiatek serve to build a 3-1 lead and had a slight opening to earn a double-break lead. But the Pole once again came up clutch to dig out of a deuce game to close the gap to 3-2.
Serving to take the match to a decider, Niemeier was broken in Swiatek’s best return game of the match to level the score at 5-5. From there, Swiatek held at love to move ahead to 6-5 and then played an outstanding return game to seal her four-game and secure the win after 1 hour and 59 minutes.
In another match, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina passed a stern test to maintain her unbeaten record in the Australian Open first round, defeating Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-5, 6-3 in 1 hour and 23 minutes.
The 23-year-old Kazakh required six set points to close out the first set after Cocciaretto pegged her back from 5-2 to 5-5 with a flurry of forehand winners. In the second, Rybakina had to overturn an early break deficit before pulling away.
Rybakina will face Kaja Juvan in the second round.