SYDNEY - U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu crashed out of the Sydney Tennis Classic on Tuesday as the Briton was handed a 6-0 6-1 defeat by in-form ninth seed Elena Rybakina.
Raducanu, playing her first match this season, was thoroughly outplayed in the opening set as her Kazakh opponent made the most of her unsteady serve, which included four double faults.
Rybakina, who finished runner-up to world number one Ash Barty in the Adelaide International on Sunday, kept up the intensity in the second set and clinched the win in just under an hour.
The loss was a fresh blow for Raducanu's preparations ahead of the Jan. 17-30 Australian Open, having withdrawn from the warm-up event in Melbourne last week following a positive test for COVID-19.
Earlier, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic made a solid start to 2022 with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia to reach the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic on Tuesday, while local favourite Ajla Tomljanovic also advanced.
Swiss Bencic, who heads to the Australian Open bidding to add a maiden Grand Slam singles title to her Tokyo Games gold, broke Haddad Maia three times in the contest on Ken Rosewall Arena.
World number 45 Tomljanovic beat Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2 6-3 in her opener to set up a second-round match with Spanish fifth seed Paula Badosa.
In the ATP 250 tournament at the same venue, Argentine Federico Delbonis was beaten by lucky loser Denis Kudla of the United States 6-3 6-1 while Brandon Nakashima won his match against Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely 7-6(2) 7-6(0).
Briton Andy Murray takes on Norway's Viktor Durasovic later on Tuesday. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge)