A pair of British Grand Slam champions took centre-stage under the bright lights at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Tuesday, but it was a night of mixed fortunes for Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray eclipsed Norwegian qualifier Viktor Durasovic 6-3 6-1 to soar into the last 16, but US Open champion Raducanu's opening match of 2022 ended in an emphatic 6-0 6-1 defeat to recent Adelaide International finalist Elena Rybakina.
Murray, brushing off an opening defeat in Melbourne last week, put in an assured display to book a clash with second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
"For me this year coming to Australia feels kind of a bit special, because I just got told that that was the first match I had won here in like over a thousand days (1107)," said the 34-year-old, who was last victorious in a match Down Under in 2019.
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"I have had a lot of issues and gone through a lot to get back here, and was really disappointed to miss it last year with getting COVID … obviously wanted to come here this year and perform well.
"This feels like the start of an important year for me."
Following a tentative start, Murray connected with some rocket returns to take control against the world No.345.
Up 3-1 in the second set, the former world No.1 flicked a trademark forehand lob over his opponent while back-pedalling and raised his fist to salute the crowd, evidently enjoying himself.
The five-time Australian Open finalist called it "a stretch" to be considered a contender at Melbourne Park this month.
"When I was at my peak it was difficult enough. Unfortunately, I ran into one guy who has won it nine times (Novak Djokovic) and Roger Federer," added the world No.135.
"I believe I can have a good run there. If I find a bit of form … who knows?"
Cue a chorus of cheers for the popular Brit.
Last year's teenage sensation Raducanu faced a tall order for her opening encounter of the season, drawn against the brutal striking of in-form ninth seed Rybakina.
Only world No.1 Ash Barty could halt the Kazakh in Adelaide last week, and Rybakina picked up where she left off in South Australia, serving brilliantly and pouncing on any short balls to race to the opening set in just 24 minutes.
Raducanu, up at world No.18 courtesy of her fairy tale maiden major in New York, was undeterred, and some angled serves and stunning retrieval skills earned a game on the board after 41 minutes of play.
The 19-year-old saw the funny side with a grin, but world No.13 Rybakina's level never dipped to surge towards victory.
Earlier on Tuesday, Australian No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic successfully navigated into the second round, recovering from 0-3 down in the second set to post a 6-2 6-3 victory over Slovak qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
The world No.45 earned a first showdown against fifth seed Paula Badosa, and the home charge is relishing the chance to challenge herself against the very best.
"I saw her progress last year and thought what she did in the end was incredible. I didn't see it coming, but she definitely has the game to play big matches and win," stated Tomljanovic, reflecting on the Indian Wells champion's 2021.
"I'm just glad that I'm putting myself in a position every week against the top players and giving myself chances to come out on top."
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Having ticked Bondi Beach off her bucket list, Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic motored through her opening clash in Sydney.
The Swiss needed just 69 minutes to dispatch Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3 6-2 without facing a break point on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Bencic believes her Tokyo triumph lets her play "more free" in pursuit of other ambitions.
"I have nothing to prove anymore because I really, really wanted that big title," the 24-year-old said.
"Now I just feel like it's done and I can enjoy, I don't feel any pressure by it whatsoever, but still I have more goals and more dreams to reach."
ATP Next Gen Finals prodigies Sebastian Baez and Brandon Nakashima earned shots at top seeds after wins on Tuesday.
Argentine youngster Baez battled past Australia's Christopher O'Connell 6-2 1-6 7-6(4) to book an encounter with fifth seed Lorenzo Sonego. American Nakashima held his nerve 7-6(2) 7-6(0) facing Jiri Vesely to set up a meeting with third seed Fabio Fognini.
Elsewhere, Pedro Martinez absorbed the power play of Alexei Popyrin 6-4 6-4, and Dusan Lajovic was a 7-6(5) 6-4 victor over Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Australian Open 2018 semifinalist Elise Mertens moved on 6-2 7-6(5) over France's Fiona Ferro, while a resolute performance from Caroline Garcia fended off world No.22 Jessica Pegula 6-4 7-6(3).