The last time Petra Kvitova competed in Sydney three years ago, the Czech left with the trophy.
Fast-forward to 2022, and the two-time Grand Slam champion battled back from the brink to open her account this season.
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Monday also served up wins in Sydney for top-10 talent Paula Badosa and Anett Kontaveit to begin their preparations for Australian Open 2022, while Jordan Thompson boosted home hopes in the men’s draw.
World No.21 Kvitova, champion in Sydney in 2015 and 2019, saved two match points in the deciding set to overcome Arantxa Rus 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 in a near three-hour duel.
"I really had to fight today a lot. I lost my first match in Adelaide and after losing in the beginning of the season, you don't feel the best, and that was my case," said Kvitova, who fell to Australian Priscilla Hon last week.
"It was really difficult but somehow, I made it. It's been a long time since I turned a match from match points, so this is something very special."
Kvitova, competing in Sydney for the seventh time, is seeking a final few on-court adjustments before heading to Melbourne.
"I think I had a pretty tough off season, so I hope that at one point it will show up,” said the 31-year-old.
"I can still improve the movement on it. Sometimes the easy balls is where I'm doing the mistakes. With my risky game sometimes it's very tricky, but when I'm playing the best tennis, I just can't miss."
The stakes will be raised in the Czech's next encounter, as Kvitova will face seventh seed Ons Jabeur. The trailblazing Tunisian's repertoire of all-court tennis dictated proceedings in a 6-1 6-3 victory over valiant Australian wildcard Astra Sharma.
Kontaveit was in scorching form at the back end of 2021, claiming 29 of the last 34 matches, which culminated in a runner-up spot at the WTA Finals.
The Estonian has rocketed to world No.7, and has carried that momentum into the new year, dismissing Zhang Shuai 6-3 6-3 in just 89 minutes.
"I know I can go deep in these weeks and do well and play good tennis and competitive tennis against great players," said Kontaveit, who lost just 15 points in nine service games.
"I think I have this inner confidence, but I'm not putting too much pressure on myself. The end of the season was physically very demanding, and although now I'm feeling good and ready to play again, it's going to be a new season and just really happy to be back competing."
Indian Wells champion Badosa is up and running in 2022 after nullifying the threat of Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(1) 6-1 to move into the last 16.
"I think it's one of the things that gave me a lot of matches last year, to keep fighting no matter what," said world No.9 Badosa.
"Against an opponent like Jelena, she can win 12 points in a row in two minutes. You have to accept that moment and that's what I did and I started to play much, much better.
"I'm really happy with my first win of the year … I was quite nervous today and for me, it was important. I think mentally, I stuck there until the last moment."
Sydneysider Thompson flourished on home courts with a 6-4 6-2 scoreline facing Marcos Giron on Ken Rosewall Arena to book an encounter with towering American Reilly Opelka.
Fellow Australian Christopher O'Connell reached the main draw with an impressive 6-3 6-4 triumph over Stefano Travaglia. O'Connell’s reward is an opening-round clash with Next Gen qualifier Sebastian Baez.
Hon put up a strong fight for the green and gold but couldn't quite advance to the last 16. World No.73 Jaqueline Cristian booked a meeting with Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova with a 7-6(5) 7-5 win against the Australian youngster.
Australian Open 2020 champion Sofia Kenin also fell at the first hurdle, Daria Kasatkina wrapping up a dominant 6-4 6-0 victory in just 63 minutes.
Fifth seed Lorenzo Sonego required three sets to topple the trickery of French youngster Hugo Gaston, while seventh seed Fabio Fognini managed to edge Daniel Altmaier 6-3 7-5 under the lights.
Meanwhile, David Goffin welcomed his first match win in eight months to record a 6-4 6-4 victory over Facundo Bagnis.