A RESOUDING win for in-form Daria Gavrilova has given Australia's women's tennis stars their best start to the US Open in more than 30 years.
Gavrilova extended her hardcourt winning streak to six matches with a 6-2 6-1 rout of Allie Kiick to join Ashleigh Barty, Arina Rodionova and Ajla Tomljanovic as first-round winners.
It's the first time four Australian women have progressed to the second round at Flushing Meadows since 1986.
Fresh off her WTA title breakthrough in New Haven on Sunday, Gavrilova lived up to her new-found status as an Open dark horse with a clinical display on the Grandstand court.
The 25th seed needed exactly an hour to see off the world No.634, breaking Kiick seven times and dropping serve only once in recording her first victory in New York since winning the junior crown in 2010.
Gavrilova will return on Friday to play another American, world No.62 Shelby Rogers.
Not since the days when Wendy Turnbull, Liz Minter and Liz Smylie were prominent in grand slam draws in the 1980s has Australia enjoyed such a promising start to the Open.
Turnbull, Minter and Smylie, along with Jenny Byrne and Amanda Tobin, all made it past the first round in New York 31 years ago.Unfortunately, their wasn't much time to celebrate with Rodionova and Tomljanovic bundled out of the tournament a short time later, though Barty progressed to the third round. Barty continued her breakthrough season by seeing off Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1 7-6 (9-7), progressing to the final 32 at Flushing Meadows for the first time. Already guaranteed to see her ranking jump into the top 40, Barty will next play American Sloane Stephens. Rodionova lost to Richel Hogenkamp 7-5 7-5, and Tomljanovic went down to Aleksandra Krunic 6-3 6-2.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's grand slam return from her doping ban continued when the former world No.1 reached the US Open last 32 with a 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-1 win over Timea Babos of Hungary.
The 2006 champion fired 12 aces with 39 winners and 36 unforced errors. The Russian star, who knocked out second seed Simona Halep in the first round, will face either Sofia Kenin or Sachia Vickery, both of the United States, for a place in the last 16.
"It was a scrappy match but every time I step on the court here it's a special day," said the 30-year-old five-time major winner.
"But I felt fresh and I wanted to be the fittest player out there."
Sharapova, playing her first slam since serving a 15-month ban imposed after the 2016 Australian Open, dropped the first set against the 59th-ranked Babos.
At the changeover, 146-ranked Sharapova abandoned one of the arm-length black sleeves she had been wearing.
It seemed to do the trick as she broke in the first game.
But Babos recovered the break at 2-2 on the back of a fifth double fault.
Wildcard Sharapova then fought off two break points in the sixth game and from that point she did not look back, going on to coast through the decider in just 28 minutes.
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