Jabeur joins big guns in Open second round

World No.2 Ons Jabeur has overcome a stuttering start to her bid for a maiden grand slam title to seal a spot in the Australian Open second round.

Jabeur was stretched the distance and looked shaky throughout the opening two sets before pulling away to claim a 7-6 (10-8) 4-6 6-1 victory over Tamara Zidansek on Tuesday night.

With heavy taping on her right knee, Jabeur had to save three set points before snatching the opener in a tiebreak, then lost the second set.

But the Tunisian gathered herself as Zidansek had a bathroom break before the third set.

Runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Jabeur reeled off the decider in just 28 minutes, including winning six consecutive games.

"It was a very tough match. I wasn't playing very well and she was putting a lot of pressure on me," Jabeur said.

"I know she's a player that doesn't give up and brings every ball in, so I was pretty frustrated but I'm glad that I let it out in the second set.

"I just told myself to be number two in the world and just win this match."

Jabeur will next face either Alison Riske-Amritraj or Marketa Vondrousova.

Caroline Garcia and Aryna Sabalenka earlier both won in straight sets in little more than an hour on court as the mercury soared past 35 degrees.

Fifth-seeded Sabalenka continued her unbeaten start to the year with a 6-1 6-4 drubbing of Czech Tereza Martincova in 69 minutes before Garcia crushed Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov 6-3 6-0 in 65 minutes.

Yet to drop a set in five matches in 2023 after reigning at the Adelaide International, the Belarusian looms as a serious title challenger after reaching the semi-finals of the US Open in September on similarly fast hard courts.

But the 25-year-old is chasing her first major without the presence of her national flag at Melbourne Park after Tennis Australia on Tuesday banned Belarusian and Russian banners from the season-opening grand slam.

Russian and Belarusian players are only allowed to compete at the Open under a neutral banner following the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"I really thought that like tennis - not tennis, just the sport - is nothing to do with politics," Sabalenka said.

"But if everyone feels better this way, then it's okay.

"I mean, I have zero control on it. What can I say?"

Runner-up to Garcia at the season-ending WTA Finals in November, Sabalenka plays American Shelby Rogers in the second round on Thursday.

Fourth-seeded Garcia will face Canada's 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez after continuing her amazing return to prominence.

The Frenchwoman was ranked 70th when she lost in the first round last year in Melbourne to world No.165 Hailey Baptiste.

"First round of the first slam of the year, I was not really expecting to come here as the No.4 seed so I'm very grateful to play on RLA - it's my first win here so I'm very happy," she said.