By John Pye, Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Sloane Stephens advanced at the Australian Open at the expense of her former doubles partner Timea Babos in a second-round match the women's tour billed as a battle of the so-called "frenemies."
Fifth-seeded Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, dominated the Rod Laver Arena opener 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday but Babos kept her working by saving 18 of the 23 break points she faced.
The pair combined to win three junior Grand Slam doubles titles — the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open — in 2010.
Stephens said she knew what to expect from Babos but that didn't make it any smoother.
"I just had to hang in there and be patient," she said.
Stephens will next play No. 31-seeded Petra Martic, who beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 7-5.
Under sunny skies and an expected high temperature of 29 Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), local hope Ashleigh Barty was due to play the second match on the main show court against Wang Yafan.
This is the first time since 2014 that Stephens has put back-to-back wins together at Melbourne Park. She reached the fourth round in 2014, a year after making a run to the semifinals.
"It's tough getting back into the swing of things," Stephens said of her preparation for the season-opening major, which this month included first- and second-round losses in Brisbane and Sydney. "It's a little bit toasty, but a beautiful place to play."
In other early women's matches Wednesday, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova eliminated ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of a major for the first time since her quarterfinal run here in 2017, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat 20th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3.
No. 19-seeded Caroline Garcia advanced 6-3, 6-3 over Zoe Hives 6-3, 6-3.
Defending champions Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki were in action later Wednesday, as well the No. 2-ranked players Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber.