Pegula leads big-gun winners at AO

World No.3 Jessica Pegula has embraced the opportunity to make the fastest of starts, stamping her title credentials on day one of the Australian Open.

The 28-year-old American was the day's first winner at Melbourne Park, needing just 59 minutes to see off the challenge of Romania's Jaqueline Cristian 6-0 6-1.

Pegula won the opening nine games on Margaret Court Arena and sealed the lopsided victory with an ace.

Her second-round opponent will be Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who ousted 15-year-old Czech wunderkind Brenda Fruhvirtova 7-5 6-2.

Pegula underlined her status as a genuine chance to win a maiden grand slam crown in Melbourne by crushing world No.1 and title favourite Iga Swiatek in straight sets at the United Cup in Sydney in early January.

She reached the quarter-finals at her previous two Open campaigns and was beaten by eventual champ Ash Barty last year.

"I was really happy I was first on today," she said.

"(Rather than) waiting around at the site for that first round I'm more like 'let's just get it over with'.

"For all players, every round is hard, but first round, especially playing a girl I didn't know, I've never played her before, never practised with her, don't know her much.

"For me, it's just like the waiting around, the build-up, I'm usually freaking out in practice a little bit and everything starts to bother me a little bit more."

Seventh seed and fellow American Coco Gauff did it tougher, needing seven match points in a marathon final game before overcoming Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-1 6-4.

"I'm really pleased with that," said the 18-year-old Gauff.

"Katerina is a fighter. I knew that she was going to fight to the last point and she proved that today."

Gauff is unbeaten in 2023, having started her year with a title triumph at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The teenager's win set up a blockbuster second-round encounter with British darling Emma Raducanu, a 6-3 6-2 winner over Germany's Tamara Korpatsch.

Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka won her clash against another ex-Australian Open champ, American Sofia Kenin, 6-4 7-6 (7-3).

"I don't look at what happened in the past too much," said the 33-year-old Belarusian, who saluted at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013.

"I get a lot of questions about 'well, how did you feel when you won here, etc' and it's very hard for me to tell, because mostly what you remember is good memories, right?

"My road to the trophies was far away from being smooth.

"So I try not to really focus on that (and) see how I feel day by day, because that keeps me a little bit more grounded, a little bit more sane."

Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari and 2022 finalist Danielle Collins also moved safely into the second round.

Sakkari outclassed China's Yue Yuan 6-1 6-4 to book a meeting on Wednesday with Russian qualifier Diana Shnaider.

Runner-up to Ash Barty last year, 13th-seeded Collins scraped past Anna Kalinskaya 7-5 5-7 6-4 in an early scare lasting more than three hours.

But her 28th-seeded American compatriot Amanda Anisimova became the first seeded casualty of the tournament, bowing out 6-3 6-4 to Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk.

No.25 Marie Bouskova from the Czech Republic also fell 6-2 6-4 at the first hurdle to Canada's 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu.