Sally Fitzgibbons has triumphed in an all-Australian opening round at the World Surf League Rio Pro in Saquarema.
Fitzgibbons was pitted against seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore, who won the last tour event in El Salvador, as well as Isabella Nichols.
In a low heat scoring Fitzgibbons, who won the Rio Pro in 2012, 2014 and 2019, advanced directly through the quarter-finals with a tally of 8.24, ahead of Nichols’ 7.67 and current world No.3 Gilmore, whose two-wave score was 6.70.
Missing the mid-season cut, Fitzgibbons only got a late call-up as a wildcard when two-time world champion Tyler Wright was forced to withdraw due to visa issues.
Nichols and Gilmore are slated to meet again in the elimination round at the Praia de Itauna break.
It was a day of upsets in the women’s draw with all top five surfers relegated to the elimination round, including current rankings leader Carissa Moore, who fell to local hope Tatiana Weston-Webb.
“I’m really happy to be here in Brazil, the vibes are always amazing and I feel like I’m at home,” Weston-Webb, who is ranked ninth, said.
“I’m really grateful that I got that first really good left … from there I just tried to stay in control of the heat.”
In the men’s opening round, Australia’s world No.2 Jack Robinson eased past Brazilians Mateus Herdy and Samuel Pupo.
Three-time Rio Pro champion and current rankings leader Felipe Toledo also skipped the elimination round.
In-form Sydneysider Connor O’Leary won his heat against countryman Ethan Ewing and Brazil’s Gabriel Medina while Jackson Baker was another Australian to advance.
American Griffin Colpinto, who won in El Salvador, was shocked in his heat with a late rally by Brazilian Michael Rodrigues and will enter the sudden-death round.