Photo: Australian Open

It was always going to be difficult for Bianca Andreescu to light up the Australian Open after 15 months out due to injury. Alas, her first-round win over Mihaela Buzarnescu provided a glimpse of what’s to come from the Canadian this year – but her second round loss to Hsieh Su-wei showed how tough it can be for a player returning from such a long lay off.

Andreescu’s only previous meeting with Tuesday’s opponent – Wednesday in Australia – was the semi-final of the Auckland Open in 2019. Coincidentally, that event also marked her last meeting with Venus Williams, who she could have faced in the third round had she beaten Hsieh.

The match started off-script for Andreescu as she dropped her first two service games – the second due to a frustrating double fault on break point. The Canadian did pull a break back to make it 5-3 thanks to a long backhand by Hsieh – but it was the 35-year-old, ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles, who claimed the first set 6-3.

Andreescu was struggling to find her rhythm – understandably so having played just one match since October 2019 – and fell to a 3-0 deficit early in the second set. However, she showed resilience to steady herself with a hold of serve and then break Hsieh – to love – to bring the set back on serve.

That wasn’t enough to stifle a determined Hsieh, though, as the veteran produced a stunning backhand return in the very next game to break Andreescu again and take a 4-2 lead. It was a lead that would prove vital as Hsieh held her next service game, despite two break point opportunities for Andreescu, and broke the Canadian – who double faulted on match point – to claim a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Elsewhere, on 1573 Arena, Rebecca Marino was facing a stern test in the form of 19th-seed Marketa Vondrousova. The Canadian, who was one of the feel-good stories of the first round following her 6-0, 7-6[9] victory over Australian Kimberly Birrell, was considered the underdog heading into her second-round clash.

The only previous meeting between the pair came in a 2019 Billie Jean King Play-Off tie in the Czech Republic as Vondrousova ran out a 6-3, 6-4 winner on a tough day for Team Canada.

And it was to be a tough – yet impressive – outing for Marino here as she dropped the first set 6-1 with Vondrousova’s top-20 prowess coming to the fore. In fact, that was the first set Marino had lost so far in the Australian Open, including qualifying.

The Canadian started the second set well – crafting a break of Vondrousova’s serve at the first time of asking. The Czech fought back to level proceedings, but Marino refused to go down without a fight – breaking again to eventually give herself the chance to serve for the set. Crucially, though, she double faulted at 40:A to hand Vondrousova a lifeline.

And the 21-year-old took it with both hands as she won her final service game and immediately broke Marino’s serve to seal a 6-1, 7-5 victory and passage through to round three in Melbourne.

In doubles, sixth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States beat Lara Arruabarrena and Kaitlyn Christian by a convincing score of 6-2, 6-3 to reach the second round.