Sabalenka in cruise control at the Open

Rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka has lived up to her pre-tournament billing with an emphatic first-round win at the Australian Open.

Considered by many as a title dark horse, the 11th seed thumped Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-1 6-4 in one hour and six minutes on Monday.

Sabalenka has soared from outside the top 70 since losing to Ashleigh Barty in the opening round last year, collecting her first two career titles in a breakout 2018 season.

The 20-year-old next plays either Brit Katie Boulter or another Russian in former Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova on Wednesday for a place in round three.

Other early winners on day one at Melbourne Park included former champion Maria Sharapova and Croatian seed Petra Martic.

A ruthless Sharapova humbled British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-0 6-0 and next plays Swede Rebecca Peterson, who posted the first win of the tournament – 6-4 6-1 victory over Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

Martic beat Brit Heather Watson 6-1 6-2.

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