WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title - UBITENNIS
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WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title

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Aryna Sabalenka has lots of reasons to smile as of late (twitter.com/WTA)

In a rare Wednesday final, she’ll face Veronika Kudermetova, who is playing in her first WTA championship singles match.

 

At the beginning of 2019, Aryna Sabalenka debuted inside the WTA top 10.  That was coming off a 2018 season where in which Aryna accumulated 47 match wins, two titles, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time.  From there, her progress stagnated a bit, as she spent the last two years ranked between No.9 and No.16.  But now she’s on a 14-match winning streak, having claimed back-to-back titles to end 2020.  With a win on Wednesday, she would reach a career-high ranking of No.7.

At the beginning of 2019, Veronika Kudermetova debuted inside the WTA top 100.  The Russian steadily climbed the rankings that year, reaching the top 40 at the end of the season.  Since the tour restart last August, the 23-year-old was a modest 7-6 before this event.  But she dropped only one set this week on her way to her first WTA final, which included impressive wins over Elina Svitolina and Anett Kontaveit.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Veronika Kudermetova

Their only previous meeting does not provide much guidance as to what will happen on Wednesday.  It took place six years ago at an ITF Challenger event in Antalya, which Sabalenka claimed in straight sets.  Kudermetova will surely be nervous, as this is the biggest match of her career to date.  And she’s facing an ultra-confident Sabalenka, who is on a 14-0 run.  Yesterday, Aryna easily dispatched of an in-form Maria Sakkari, requiring only 57 minutes in a match where she struck 22 winners and only eight unforced errors.  After yesterday’s win, Sabalenka told the press she’s focusing less on winning and more on the process of improving her game, and cited this as the reason for her current win streak.  When Aryna is at her best, she can outhit just about anyone on tour.  And we’ve seen before how difficult she is to defeat when she’s on a tear like this.  I’m not betting against this version of Sabalenka winning her third straight title.

Other action on Wednesday:

In the doubles championship match, it’s 2020 St. Petersburg champions Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani, recent champions in Lexington.  These two teams played in the third round of Roland Garros a few months ago, with the Japanese team prevailing in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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Samsonova Battles Past Bencic To Win Maiden Title In Berlin, Gets Wimbledon Wild Card

The Russian qualifier has stunned the tournament with a run that also seen her defeat Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

Liudmila Samsonova is the 2021 Bett1 Open champion after pulling off another upset by beating number five seed Belinda Bencic 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 in front of a capacity crowd on Steffi Graff Stadion under hot and humid conditions.

 

The 22-year-old underdog caps off what has been a fairytale run in Germany for the qualifier. Prior to the tournament Samsonova had never beaten a top 20 player in her career or reached a Tour final. Against Bencic she hit 28 winners to 15 unforced errors and won 66% of her service points.

” I was so nervous today even before the match and during the first set so after the first set I took a toilet break and told myself to play a more aggressive game and it worked,” Samsonova said following her triumph.

It was world No.12 Bencic who got off to a fast start by holding serve comfortably and than the following game setting up the first break chance with a return forehand winner before the Russian would double fault twice in a row to give the early break. At 3-0 the Swiss found herself again at double breakpoint and managed to seal the it en route to taking the first set in just 28 minutes.

However, the second set was the total opposite with underdog Samsonova holding serve and breaking the very next game with a powerful forehand winner. Like Bencic in the first set, she turned her lead into a double break and served out the second set.

The Russian carried the momentum into the third and deciding set earning a chance to break in the first game and the world No.12 would double fault to give the break. At 4-2 the world No.106 had a chance to go up a double break but Bencic managed to save it and hold serve before going on the offensive. The Swiss had two chances of her own to go back on serve but the Russian saved all three breakpoints she faced.

At 5-3 the Samsonova had two chances to seal the match and the title on her opponents serve. Bencic saved the first one but the world number 106 would seal the win on the second.

In her post match press conference Samsonova explained how once she levelled the match was able to close it out.

” I was trying to keep my game going and try to be aggressive on my first shot and my serve and on the return and that is what I was focusing on”.

The young Russian now has her sights sets on Wimbledon as she awarded a main draw wild card after the match.

“They just told me that I’m going to have the wildcard for the main draw, so I’m so happy,” she said.

Samsonova is the 10th first-time WTA champion this season.

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Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka To Team Up For Olympic Bid

The two players say their main focus is on playing singles but a ‘great opportunity’ has presented itself.

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image via https://twitter.com/bett1open

The two highest ranked WTA players from Belarus are being considered as strong contenders to win an Olympic medal later this year after they recently confirmed plans to join forces.

 

Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are set to play in the women’s doubles tournament despite only playing together five times before on the WTA Tour. The duo has illustrated their potential at the Bett1 Open in Berlin, where they clinched the title on Sunday. In the final the pair upset top seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs 4-6, 7-5, 10-7, to claim their first ever trophy together.

We both brought a different level, mindset than a few years ago. It was important to play together to feel each other’s game, see what we can try, apply what works, what we can work on. Our priority is singles but it’s a great opportunity at the Olympics to team up,” WTA Insider quoted Azarenka as saying following the final on Sunday.

Whilst they are both best known for their singles game, they have also had previous success in the doubles. Sabalenka won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open alongside Elise Mertens, as well as three Premier titles.

“We’ll play at the Olympics. To win a title, it gives us a lot of confidence and we feel each other better and players will know that we are playing good with each other and it’s more confidence for us and more pressure for other players,” the world No.4 commented.

Azarenka has already enjoyed success at the Olympics in her career. In 2012 she defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko in straight sets to win a bronze medal. During the same year she won gold in the mixed doubles alongside Max Mirnyi. Making her the only Belarusian tennis player in history to have won multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Tokyo Olympic tennis tournament will be held at the Ariake Tennis Park and will get underway on July 24th.

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Matteo Berrettini reaches the final on his debut at the Queen’s

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Top seed Matteo Berrettini beat Alex De Minaur 6-4 6-4 after 84 minutes to reach the final in his debut at the Queen’s Club in London. 

 

Berrettini has not dropped a set yet at this tournament and beat British players Andy Murray and Daniel Evans earlier this week. 

Berrettini won 89% of his first service points and hit 8 aces. The Italian top ten player broke serve in the third game with a backhand down the line to take a 2-1 lead and did not face any break points in his next service games to win the first set 6-4. 

Berrettini earned three break points in the fifth game of the second set, but De Minaur held serve from 0-40 to take a 3-2 lead. Berrettini saved a break point to draw level to 3-3 before breaking serve to take a 5-4 lead in the ninth game, when De Minaur hit his slice into the net. Berrettini served out the win on his second match point to become the first Italian player to reach the final at the Queens. 

“Making the final was the goal of the week, and now I have one more step. It is a great achievement, especially for the history of this tournament. I am really happy because to beat Alex today, I had to play my best tennis. The mentality is that I always think I can win my service games. I know that I have a big weapon with my serve and first shot. If I sleep too well, it means something is off is off ahead of the final. I have to be nervous and tight a little bit, otherwise the adrenaline does not kick in and it is tougher to play”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini set up a final against Cameron Norrie, who beat Denis Shapovalov 7-5 6-3 in 94 minutes. Norrie won 76% of his first service points and came back from one set down to become the first British player to reach the final at the Queen’s. 

Shapovalov earned an early break to take a 2-0 lead. Norrie broke back to draw level to 3-3. The British player earned his second break with a backhand passing shot in the 12th game to claim the first set 7-5. 

Norrie did not convert a break point at 3-2, after Shapovalov had treatment on an injury. The British player broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and served out the second set in the second game to secure his spot in the final. Norrie has reached his third final this year after fiinishing runner-up to Albert Ramos Vinolas at the Estoril Open and to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Lyon. 

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