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Emma Raducanu, Aryna Sabalenka struggle in lead up to Australian Open

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

As the Australian Open quickly approaches, some of tennis’ top names are struggling to find their footing Down Under, with Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu each dropping their first-round matches.

World No. 2 Sabalenka lost 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 to Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the first round of the Adelaide International on Monday. Peterson, currently ranked No. 395 in the world, secured her first career win over a top-five opponent with the victory.

While top-ranked Ash Barty is 7-for-7 in her matches so far this year, Sabalenka has not won in more than two months.

Defending US Open Champion and British No. 1 Emma Raducanu fell 6-0, 6-1 to Elena Rybakina in just 55 minutes at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Tuesday. The match marked Raducanu’s eighth WTA-level main draw after she withdrew from the Melbourne Summer Set to get more preparation time. Raducanu tested positive for COVID-19 in late December.

Immediately following the match, Raducanu hit the practice court.

“Yesterday was pretty much my second time playing competitive points for two months,” Raducanu told reporters after the match. “I’m confident that I can brush it off and keep going and keep working.

“I just want to keep putting myself out there. Even if I keep getting knocked down, it’s just about getting back up and basically falling in front. You’re one step better and you learn more. I’m just at the start of my first season. My goal is to not get too down or too high.”

Elsewhere at the Sydney Classic, Ajla Tomljanovic beat Anna Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-3, setting up a meeting with fifth-seeded Paula Badosa. The Spanish world No. 9 took down Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(1), 6-1 in the first round.

The main draw for the Australian Open will be unveiled Thursday, and the first matches begin Monday.