Ajla Tomljanovic has overcome a mid-match slump to close a three-set first-round win at the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells.
Tomljanovic sealed a 6-2 2-6 6-2 victory over young American talent Hailey Baptiste on her fourth match point.
After cruising through the opening set, with three breaks of serve, Tomljanovic was unable to create any pressure in the second stanza as 20-year-old Baptiste levelled the match.
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However, the more experienced Tomljanovic wasted no time in grabbing the momentum in the deciding set as she broke serve three times in a row to take a 4-1 lead.
Baptiste saved two match points on serve in the seventh game but that just delayed the inevitable as Tomljanovic prevailed in 1 hour 52 minutes.
With top ranked Ash Barty delaying her return to the WTA Tour until April, after her Australian Open exploits, Tomljanovic and qualifier Daria Saville will carry Australia’s hopes in Indian Wells.
Next up for world No.39 Tomljanovic is a meeting with Romanian 26th seed Sorana Cirstea.
A rejuvenated Saville, after a long battle with chronic achilles pain, will face China’s Shuai Zhang in her main draw opener.
Other first-round winners in the California desert included Alison Riske, Kaia Kanepi, Petra Martic and Ekaterina Alexandrova, despite 18 double faults.
The tournament was one of the first major sporting events to be cancelled in March 2020 due to COVID-19.
It was moved to October last year and played with few spectators in the stands but returns to its traditional March slot on the calendar with packed stands expected.