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

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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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Pablo Carreno Busta beats Mikael Ymer in Metz

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Second seed Pablo Carreno Busta beat Mikael Ymer 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 52 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the Moselle Open

 

Carreno Busta set up a quarter final match against Danish Next Gen Holger Rune, who battled past Lorenzo Sonego 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 after 2 hours and 40 minutes. 

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John Millman battled past Jame Munar 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 after 3 hours and 9 minutes to advance to the quarter finals in Nur Sultan. 

 

“These long matches are not good in my age, I tell you !. It was such a physical battle out there. It was such a physical battle out there. I thought the level was extremely good. I thought I improved from yesterday in terms of how I was playing: Munari s a tough competitor. His body probably let him down a little bit towards the end. I have got to tell you, my body wasn’t feeling all that great, either. It was such a physical match and just so happy to extend my stay here”, said Millman.

Laslo Djere overcame Lorenzo Musetti 6-4 6-7 (3-7) after 2 hours and 48 minutes. Djere will face either Dusan Lajovic or Soonwoo Kwon. Ilya Ivashka beat wildcard Timofey Skatov 6-2 6-3. Carlos Taberner knocked out Ricardas Berankis 7-5 6-4. 

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Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova in Ostrava advance to the quarter finals

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Last year’s Roland Garros Iga Swiatek beat Yulia Putintseva 6-4 6-4 in 1 hour and 47 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the J&T Open in Ostrava. 

 

Swiatek, who was playing the second indoor WTA main draw of her career after Budapest 2019, faced Putuntseva for the first time in her career. Putintseva reached the semifinal in Portoroz last week and overcame Zhang Shuai after 3 hours and 24 minutes. 

Putintseva went down 0-3 in the first set, but she broke back to draw level to 3-3. Swiatek reeled off the last eight points of the first set to win the first set. 

Swiatek missed three break points to break Putintseva at 4-4 in the second set. The Pole saved two break points with her fourth ace and a series of backhand errors. Swiatek broke serve at love in the ninth game with two consecutive backhands to win the second set 6-4. 

“It was very tough. She was running to every ball. It was really hard. It was really hard to finish her, especially with such a slow surface. She could reach everything and she was fighting to the end. Even on match point I had to finish her three times. I am really happy that I won. It’s really hard for me to play against such players. I like to risk and with risking comes unforced errors, so it’s tough to get the balance between when to push and when to stay and wait for the opponent to miss”, said Swiatek. 

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US Alison Riske rallied from 1-3 down in the third set before beating Fiona Ferro 6-4 1-6 6-4 after 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

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