(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Shahar Pe'er and Julia Glushko both safely overcame their first hurdle at the Australian Open qualifiers on Thursday. The Israelis will need to come through three rounds of qualifiers in Melbourne to reach the main draw of the first grand slam tournament of the year.
Pe'er, ranked No. 117 in the world, beat Canadian Francoise Abanda (202) 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to set up a meeting on Friday with Anastasia Rodionova (190) of Australia.
Glushko (153) will face China's Yafan Wang (179) in the second round on Friday after beating Patricia Maria Tig of Romania (215) 7-6 (6), 7-5.
"I'm really happy about the win," said Glushko, who progressed past three rounds of qualifiers to reach the main draw at her first tournament of the year in Auckland, New Zealand.
"I played against a tough, young and talented opponent who I am sure we will hear about in the future.
"I didn't play so well, but I'm already focusing on the match against Wang."
Elsewhere, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro's comeback from a lengthy injury layoff was cut short by Kazakhstan qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin in the quarterfinals of the Sydney international on Thursday.
The towering Argentine had been out for 10 months after undergoing surgery to fix a left wrist issue and went down 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to Kukushkin, ranked 66th in the world.
Defending champion Del Potro, who won the US Open in 2009, has seen his ranking plummet to 338 and had hoped to get some match practice in Sydney before the Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday.
There was not much to choose between the two players, who went unbroken throughout the match, barring a few points in the tiebreakers.
"It was a tough match," said Del Potro, who beat top seed Fabio Fognini in his second match. "I think he deserved to win because he played better than me in the tie-break.
"I served well, but my wrist hurts a little bit more than yesterday, and I couldn't hit harder than my last match. I think anyway it's a great week for me.
"I played three matches in a row and I played against good players, which means a good comeback for me."
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova signaled her intent for Melbourne by brushing aside Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5,
6-1 to set up an all-Czech final in Sydney against Karolina Pliskova.Reuters contributed to this report