Bencic makes winning comeback from COVID

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  • Belinda Bencic
    Belinda Bencic
    Swiss female tennis player
  • Beatriz Haddad Maia
    Brazilian tennis player

Olympic champion Belinda Bencic has made a successful but "wobbly" start to the 2022 season in her first match since being struck down by COVID-19.

Bencic beat Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday to safely progress to the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic.

The former world No.4, now ranked 23rd, would ordinarily be one of Ash Barty's biggest threats at this month's Australian Open.

But after contracting the virus last month after competing at an Abu Dhabi exhibition, the Tokyo gold medallist is playing catch-up ahead of the Melbourne Park major starting on Monday.

"I was struggling a little bit, getting to practice after COVID because the pulse was getting up and the fatigue was still there," Bencic said.

"I think I still have room to feel better and my fitness has to get better.

"I still feel a little bit wobbly and so I think there is still potential, but I'm happy that I can play this tournament."

The Swiss star will play Oceane Dodin on Wednesday for a quarter-final berth after the French lucky loser from qualifying capitalised on her main-draw start with a 6-4 6-1 win over Mexican doubles specialist Giuliana Olmos.

Australian No.2 Ajla Tomljanovic also moved into the second round on Tuesday with a straight-sets victory over Anna Schmiedlova.

Tomljanovic made an early statement, breaking the Slovakian's opening serve before storming through the match to wrap up the win 6-2 6-3.

Tomljanovic will next face fifth-seed Paula Badosa after the Spanish world No.9 accounted for Latvia's former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (7-1) 6-1.

Ranked world No.45, Tomljanovic last week pushed 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin to three sets in the second round in Adelaide.

The 28-year-old has never gone further than round two at the Australian Open but last year made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in a career-best showing.

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