Olympic champion Bencic says ‘still a bit wobbly’ after COVID
Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic said she felt “a little bit wobbly” in her first match after COVID-19 on Tuesday, as she began her warm-up for the Australian Open with a low-key win.
The 24-year-old Swiss cruised into the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia.
But Bencic, who contracted the virus in mid-December after competing at an Abu Dhabi exhibition, admitted she had not been at her best, with the first Grand Slam of the year starting on Monday.
“I was struggling a little bit, getting to practice after Covid because the pulse was getting up and the fatigue was still there,” said Bencic, a former world number four but now ranked 23rd.
“I think I still have room to feel better and my fitness has to get better.
“I still feel a little bit wobbly and so I think there is still potential, but I’m happy that I can play this tournament.”
She will now take on Oceane Dodin of France in the next round.
Dodin, a lucky loser from qualifying, beat Mexican doubles specialist Giuliana Olmos 6-4, 6-1.
World number 20 Elise Mertens also moved through the first round with a comfortable 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) win over France’s Fiona Ferro.
The Belgian will take on Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the second round.
However, Jessica Pegula, ranked two places below Mertens at 22 in the world, was beaten by France’s Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
In the men’s draw, former world number one Andy Murray demolished Norwegian qualifier Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-1 in just 71 minutes.
Murray, who was given a wildcard this week after his first-round loss in Melbourne last week, was far too strong for the erratic Durasovic, who hit 23 unforced errors to Murray’s seven.
The Scotsman, now ranked 135 in the world following a run of debilitating injuries going back to 2018, has also been given a wildcard to next week’s Australian Open, where he has been runner-up five times.
He said the form he showed against Durasovic gave him confidence for the Open.
“I believe I can have a good run there and who knows, if I can find a bit of form and the draw opens up?” the 34-year-old asked.
Earlier, sixth seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia was too strong for Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, winning 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
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