Ajla Tomljanovic is set to gain a proper early measure of her readiness to make a splash at the Australian Open when she tackles the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka at the Abu Dhabi Open.
Sabalenka won her 10th consecutive match to set up a second-round meeting with Australia's No.2 Tomljanovic, who has a busy Friday in prospect as she's in action in both the singles and doubles.
Currently ranked No.10 in the world, Sabalenka overcame a slow start to her first match of 2021 on Thursday to defeat Slovenia's Polona Hercog 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
The 22-year-old Belarusian stormed from 2-5 and two set points down to take control of the opening set, looking every inch a player who was still adjusting to outdoor conditions after practising indoors over the holiday period.
"I didn't have my serve and I didn't have my forehand and backhand. But I had my character and I was just trying to use it as much as I can," Sabalenka told reporters.
"When the score was 2-5, 15-40, I just said to myself, oh I don't care about this set, I just need to find the rhythm.
"Somehow, I won that game and was thinking OK, maybe I have a chance to still win this set. Keep playing, keep moving."
Battling on to win the set in 72 minutes, Sabalenka didn't look back, racing to a 4-0 lead in the second before closing out her win in an hour and 49 minutes.
She has a 2-1 career lead over the Australian but Tomljanovic, who beat China's Zhu Lin 6-2 7-6 (7-1) in her opening round match, won their last encounter on a hard court in Miami in 2019.
After her singles battle, Tomljanovic will join forces with Australian Open singles champion Sofia Kenin as they launch their doubles partnership against Greek Maria Sakkari and Croatian Donna Vekic.