WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Sofia Kenin Headlines Friday’s Action - UBITENNIS
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WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Sofia Kenin Headlines Friday’s Action



Sofia Kenin earlier this week in Abu Dhabi (twitter.com/WTA)

The 2020 WTA Player of the Year aims to gain some considerable match play ahead of defending her Australian Open title next month.

WTA Players are coming off an extended layoff.  Unlike the ATP, there were only two WTA tournaments following last fall’s Roland Garros.  And due to the pandemic, WTA players were active for less than half of 2020.  This event is the first of three in the newly-rechristened “WTA 500” series ahead of next month’s rescheduled Australian Open.

Kenin is joined in the singles draw by four other top 15 players: two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza, 2016 US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova, 2018 WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina, and Aryna Sabalenka, who is on a 10-match winning streak coming off back-to-back titles to close out last season.  These top five seeds already won their opening matches.  Half of the second round will be played on Friday, and the other half on Saturday.

Sofia Kenin (1) vs. Kirsten Flipkens

Will the American no.1 suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump” following a life-changing 2020 season?  Despite the abbreviated calendar last year, Kenin not only won her first Major, but also achieved another Major final, and even won a second title in Lyon.  While many players often struggle after reaching such heights, Kenin has already displayed significant resilience.  Just a few short weeks after suffering an embarrassing 6-0, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka last September in Rome, she rebounded to reach the French Open final.  That run in Paris includes four deciding set victories, evidence of her grit and composure under pressure.  Overall, Kenin was 10-3 last year in deciding sets.  Her opponent today is a near-20-year veteran who will turn 35 this weekend.  Flipkens possesses a lot of variety in her game, and famously upset Venus Williams at the Rio Olympics in 2016.  But in recent years, the Belgian has found much more success in doubles than singles.  Kenin and Flipkens have played twice previously.  Both matches occurred in 2019, and both were straight-set victories for Kenin.  And Sofia owns many more weapons on-court as compared to Kirsten.  Kenin is the favorite to prevail again today, in a quarter of the draw which also features Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sakkari, and Coco Gauff.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic.  Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 2-1, though Tomljanovic claimed their most recent meeting, two years ago in Miami.

Ons Jabeur (15) vs. Kateryna Bondarenko (Q).  Jabeur was one of the WTA’s winningest players in a shortened 2020 season.  34-year-old Bondarenko came through qualifying, and has won three matches over the last three days.

Kenin and Tomljanovic will also play doubles later in the day, facing two other prominent WTA singles players: Maria Sakkari and Donna Vekic.

Full order of play is here.

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai



Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro



Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards



Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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