It was a thrilling first day of tennis at the Sydney International as the conditions were perfect and the players excelled in front of the Sydney crowd. Fifth seed and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was able to get past her tricky opponent in the first round to kick-off her title defense successfully, while her fellow compatriot Daria Kasatkina faced some troubles in her match. Other winners of the day include Yulia Putintseva and Eugenie Bouchard, who earned a really encouraging win that came at the right time. Meanwhile, the qualifiers and lucky losers were decided after the final qualifying round matches were played today. The only bad news of the day is that there were several big names withdrawals from the tournament as Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, and Sloane Stephens all withdrew from the tournament.
The first qualifying match that ended during the day was between Naomi Broady and Kateryna Bondarenko. It was largely a one-sided affair as the Ukrainian strolled to victory after just 65 minutes, losing only two games in the process. This successful qualification for the main draw should be enough to shrug off the disappointment for Bondarenko when she missed five match point opportunities in her first round match against Roberta Vinci at Brisbane only to lose to match eventually.
Duan Yingying got through a tough match against Arina Rodionova in a 2 hours and 54 minutes thriller, to qualify herself for the main draw. Last week’s loss against Agnieszka Radwanska in Shenzhen saw her waste three match point opportunities and miss a chance to create a huge upset, but her qualification for the main draw here in Sydney would definitely be able to shrug off any disappointment.
Maria Sakkari also managed to get through a tough opponent in Donna Vekic, who had numerous chances throughout the match. Sakkari won the first set 6-3, but Vekic bounced back in the second set to lead 4-1 and look to level the match. However, Sakkari won five games in a row to seal up the match and the final qualifying spot.
Christina McHale also managed to earn a good win over Irina Falconi, and she progressed into the main draw not losing more than three games in any set during the all the qualifying rounds, which was very impressive.
Due to the last-minute withdrawals of Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, and Sloane Stephens, there were three lucky loser spots available, meaning 7 of 8 players in the final qualifying round would be able to be part of the main draw. It turned out that Naomi Broady was the only one who was unable to be part of the main draw after her heavy defeat against Bondarenko, which was a pity.
The qualifiers and lucky losers are placed in the main draw as such:
[LL] Donna Vekic - Daria Gavrilova
[LL] Arina Rodionova -  Johanna Konta
[Q] Maria Sakkari -  Roberta Vinci
[LL] Irina Falconi - [Q] Duan Yingying
[Q] Kateryna Bondarenko - [Q] Christina McHale
Kuznetsova earns straight-sets win
Svetlana Kuznetsova got her title defense to a perfect start as she strolled to a comfortable straight sets victory over Irina-Camelia Begu, despite facing some troubles in the second set. The solid groundstrokes and service from Kuznetsova allowed her to jump out to a 6-1, 4-0 lead but she was pegged back by Begu, who went on a run of four straight games to level the second set. Kuznetsova managed to stop the rout just in time as she broke serve once again to regain the lead. She successfully served out the match and sent herself into the second round.
Bouchard earns encouraging win
Eugenie Bouchard earned a very good win over Zhang Shuai in straight sets and progressed into the second round. Both players had an excellent performance today as Bouchard managed to keep Zhang at bay with her offensive style of tennis, and Zhang managed to put up a tough fight with her incredible forehands. Bouchard jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but was pegged back by Zhang to 5-5 after she played a poor service game. The set was soon extended to a tiebreak after a marathon game at 6-5 in which Zhang prevailed after saving three set points in the 15-point game. Bouchard strolled to winning the first set as she won the tiebreak 7-1 having won six consecutive points at one point. The second set was much poorer from Zhang as unforced errors were gifted to Bouchard, and soon Bouchard had a formidable 4-0 lead which would most probably be enough to get her the win. Zhang almost broke back while Bouchard was serving to stay in the match as she earned two break points, but Bouchard won a challenge which deemed that a winner from Zhang was out and eventually, the Canadian won the match on an ace which Zhang had an unsuccessful challenge on.
Putintseva benefits from Bencic’s retirement
Belinda Bencic had a disappointing end to her Sydney campaign as the defending semifinalist had to retire due to a toe injury which hindered her movement during the match. Putintseva won the first set 6-4 despite a tough fight put up by Bencic after 44 minutes. Bencic took the lead in the second set after breaking serve but was broken back immediately as she was visually affected by her toe injury which would cause some pain as she serves. Therefore, Bencic made the wise decision to retire from the match to keep herself fresh and healthy going into the Australian Open.
Kasatkina earns tough victory
Daria Kasatkina was in deep trouble during her match against Timea Babos when she fell behind by a set and a break, and Babos was the favourite to close out the match. However, after a break of service by the Russian which allowed her to return on serve in the second set, Babos lost her momentum and rhythm as she started to hand out unforced errors and soon lost the second set after Kasatkina stepped up her game and started to be more aggressive in her tennis. The disappointment of not taking her chances well in the second set soon got to Babos, who got more frustrated with herself and her unforced errors as the match progressed. With the momentum running in her, Kasatkina won the final set having to come from a break down once again to seal up the match in three sets and set up a second-round meeting with world number one Angelique Kerber.
King and Shvedova defeated a tricky pairing in Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova in straight sets after just 69 minutes to progress into the second round. Whereas, Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez upset the number three seeds Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan, who were only able to win four games in the whole match. The sisters were often leaky at the net and conceded the victory in only 62 minutes, and it was a very poor start to the new season as they also lost in the first round of the Auckland Open last week.