MELBOURNE – Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens cruised past fellow American Taylor Townsend to end her Australian Open hoodoo and advance to the second round on Monday.
Stephens, seeded fifth this year, has endured a horror run at Melbourne Park since reaching the semi-final in 2013.
The 25-year-old exited in the first round in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and also missed 2017 with a foot injury.
There were also questions about the 2017 US Open winner's form coming into the tournament after poor performances this month at warm-ups in Brisbane and Sydney.
But she looked comfortable seeing off 93rd ranked Townsend 6-4, 6-2, growing in confidence as the match wore on.
Stephens initially stumbled to go down a service break but immediately broke back to take the first set after 32 minutes.
She was in control of the second set from the offset, serving strongly and hitting accurate returns to run Townsend around in the heat.
The only wobble came when she struggled to close out the match, blowing four match points on Townsend's serve before going on to claim victory off her own racquet.
Stephens is seeking greater consistency at Grand Slams after strong performances last year to reach the final at Roland Garros and quarters at Flushing Meadows were offset by first-round exits in Australia and Wimbledon.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)