WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: The Singles and Doubles Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: The Singles and Doubles Semifinals



Maria Sakkari will return to the top 20 with a win on Tuesday (twitter.com/WTA)

Aryna Sabalenka is two matches away from her third consecutive WTA tour title.  But standing in her way in today’s semifinals is Maria Sakkari, who has defeated two Major champions over the last two days.

The other singles semifinal features two unseeded, up-and-coming youngsters, who are both looking to reach their first career WTA final.  In the doubles semifinals, the reigning US Open champions face last summer’s Lexington champions, and last year’s St. Petersburg champs take on the Australian Open singles champion and the Australian No.2, who are teaming together for the first time.

Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Maria Sakkari (9)

No one is hotter on tour than Sabalenka, who is on a 13-match winning streak.  This run includes wins over Victoria Azarenka, Elise Mertens, and Elena Rybakina, who she defeated yesterday in three sets.  However, no one has been more impressive this week than Sakkari, who in the last two rounds took out Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza.  Against Kenin yesterday, Sakkari claimed the last 10 games, and won 24 of 31 points in the third set.  After yesterday’s match, Maria told the WTA that she connects her recent results with taking a bit of pace of her shots, as she was previously hitting too hard and struggling to control her power.  Sabalenka and Sakkari have met four times over the last 18 months, all on hard courts.  Sakkari won the first meeting two Augusts ago in Cincinnati, though Sabalenka has taken the last three.  Even though Sakkari has already defeated two top 15 players in this tournament, her power game may be outdone by that of Sabalenka’s.  While Sakkari is the better mover, overpowering an in-form Sabalenka is a tall task.

Veronika Kudermetova vs. Marta Kostyuk

Yesterday, 23-year-old Kudermetova defeated Elina Svitolina for the second consecutive time.  Impressively, the Russian is now 5-3 against top 10 opposition.  Her opposition today is currently ranked 99th in the world, but Kostyuk made a splash three years ago at the Australian Open.  The then-15-year-old came through qualifying to reach the third round in Melbourne, the youngest player to do so since Martina Hingis.  The WTA has a great profile on Kostyuk here, which outlines the pressure the Ukranian felt after achieving success at such a young age.  But after turning 18 last summer, Kostyuk is focused on letting that pressure go and focusing on the process rather than the results.  Prior to this week, Marta only had two main-draw, tour-level wins, which occurred at the 2020 US Open, where she was narrowly defeated by eventual champion Naomi Osaka.  This will be Kudermetova and Kostyuk’s first career meeting.  The 38th-ranked Kudermetova is the highest-ranked player Kostyuk has faced in this event, while Veronika has already taken down two top 10 seeds.  When vying to reach your first WTA final, experience in high-profile matches is crucial, which makes Kudermetova the favorite on Tuesday.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani (8) vs. Laura Siegemund and Verz Zvonareva.  Carter and Stefani are an impressive 18-5 since last August.  Siegemund and Zvonareva won the US Open in September, which was also their first event together as a team.  They are 9-1 during their short stint together.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Sofia Kenin and Ajla Tomljanovic.  The team from Japan have now reached three semifinals in their last four events, but have not advanced farther.  Kenin and Tomljanovic have only dropped one set this week in their first tournament as a team.

Full order of play is here.

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Rafael Nadal makes a winning come-back against Flavio Cobolli in Barcelona



Rafael Nadal made a winning come-back by beating Italy’s Flavio Cobolli 6-2 6-3 in 1 hour and 26 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. The twelve-time Barcelona champion won his third match this year. 

Nadal is playing just his second tournament of the year and his first since last January, when he reached the quarter final in Brisbane. 

Nadal converted two of his eight break points and held four service games in the first set. The Spaniard held serve from 0-30 down in the first set. Cobolli faced two break points in the fourth game and saved them. The Italian player wasted a game point and was broken on Nadal’s third break point after a backhand error. Nadal consolidated the break by holding serve with a service winner to take a 4-1 lead. Cobolli faced four break points in the sixth game, but he saved three of these break points with service winners and held serve with a powerful serve to reduce the gap to 2-4. Nadal held serve at love in the seventh game with a service winner.

Cobolli missed a game point after Nadal’s backhand crosscourt winner, as he was serving to stay in the set in the eighth game. Nadal earned a set point after a forehand error from Cobolli and converted it, when the Italian player netted a forehand. 

Cobolli earned his first break point in the opening game of the second set. Nadal fended it off with a drop shot winner to hold serve after Cobolli’s forehand error. 

Nadal earned two break points, as Cobolli netted a backhand in the second game. The home star converted his break point to open up a 2-0 lead, as Cobolli hit a forehand long. Cobolli broke back in the third game after Nadal made a backhand error. 

Nadal broke serve again in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead, when Cobolli made a double fault. The former world number 1 player held his service game with a service winner in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. 

Cobolli held serve to love in the sixth game with a forehand winner to reduce the gap to 2-4. Nadal held serve in the seventh game after a forehand error from Cobolli to open up a 5-2 lead forcing the Italian player to serve  to stay in the match. Cobolli held at love to cut the deficit to 3-5. 

Nadal served out the win with a hold at 15 after Cobolli’s backhand error. Cobolli made 41 unforced errors, including 27 in the opening set. 

Nadal set up a second round match against Alex De Minaur. The 92-time titlist leads 3-1 in his four head-to-head matches against his Australian opponent. 

“Every time it is more difficult and especially when you are at an advanced age. It makes things even tougher. I am going through tough moments but at the same time, when I am able to be on Tour for a few days and practise with the guys then be able to compete a little bit, it means a lot to me. It’s still enjoyable enough to keep going. I am happy to start with a victory without a doubt”, said Nadal.

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Rising Star Mirra Andreeva Teams Up With Wimbledon Champion Martinez



Mirra Andreeva – Australian Open 2024 (foto: X @WTA)

Teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva has begun working with a former Grand Slam champion on a trial basis ahead of the French Open.

The 16-year-old has linked up with Conchita Martinez, who is overseeing her run at this week’s Rouen Open in France. Martinez peaked at a ranking high of No.2 during her career and won 33 WTA titles. After retiring from the sport, she has coached Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova. 

Andreeva’s latest partnership was formed with the help of her agent ‘two or three weeks ago.’ According to the WTA website, their practice week went well and now they are testing working together during a tournament. 

“So far, so good,” said Andreeva“I like it, I hope she likes it too. We will see how it will go and then we will decide about our next tournaments. I cannot say there are special aspects we are working on. But the first thing we worked on was my slice, because she was a good slicer. So she told me some tricks, and I’m trying to use it when I have time and a good possibility on court.”

Andreeva is currently ranked 43rd in the world and is the youngest player in the top 100. She has already reached the fourth round of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open but is yet to win a WTA title. So far this year the Russian’s best result was a quarter-final appearance at the Brisbane International. 

Martinez, who also reached the last 16 of a major at the age of 16, spoke about the teenager with Ubitennis during last year’s Wimbledon Championships. At the time she pointed out that consistency is key for the youngster.

“The most important thing is that she keeps practising and focusing on what she has to do to get better. It’s great what she is doing now but she has to maintain it,” she commented.

Andreeva kicked off her campaign in Rouen with a 6-1, 6-3, win over Nadia Podoroska. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence



Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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