Sabalenka, Gauff suffer early losses at Gippsland Trophy
Coming off a 15-match winning streak that dated back to October of last year, Sabalenka looked out of sorts in her match against the unseeded Kaia Kanepi. The Estonian veteran raced to a 5-0 lead before eventually claiming the first set 6-1.
Known for her indomitable spirit, Sabalenka fought back and took control of the second set. The Belarusian secured two breaks to win the second set, relying on her powerful groundstrokes from the baseline. However, errors began to creep into her game as she was unable to find any rhythm in the final set. Kanepi obtained two quick breaks to establish a 5-0 lead, before eventually winning the match 6-1 2-6 6-1.
American Coco Gauff faced Britain's Katie Boulter in her opening round match and reeled off five consecutive games to take the first set 6-3. With both ladies holding serve in the second, Gauff acquired the crucial break at 5-4. However, the 16-year old was unable to serve out the match, and Boulter capitalized to level the set at 5-5. Taking advantage of her newfound momentum, the World No.371 again broke Gauff, this time to love as she clinched the second set.
The young American displayed her fighting spirit in the final set, and the match remained close at 2-2. Nonetheless, Boulter's more consistent play prevailed, as she displayed increasing confidence in her groundstrokes. The Brit won the final four games to prevail with a 3-6 7-5 6-2 victory after an hour and 43 minutes. Awaiting Boulter in the next round is the winner between France's Alize Cornet and reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka.