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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Grand Slam Glory Is The Main Goal For America’s Coco Gauff



Cori Gauff - Australian Open 2023 (Twitter @AustralianOpen)

 Coco Gauff has big aspirations and she isn’t afraid to speak openly about them. 


Following her second round win over Julia Grabher at the French Open on Thursday, the 19-year-old played down the fixation on her current ranking which is No.6 in the world. Gauff admits that her position is something that doesn’t concern her in the sport unless she is sitting at the top of the world rankings. 

“I’m not a ranking person at all. The goal is No.1, and I think that’s when I would care about the ranking,” she stated in her press conference. 
“Anything in between two and 10, I mean, I’m going to be honest, it’s not that important to me.”

Gauff first broke into the world’s top 10 in September 2022 and has remained there ever since. At the time she was the youngest top 10 debutant on the WTA Tour since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006. She has been ranked as high as No.4 in the world.

“When I made the top 10, it was a cool accomplishment, but for me it was never about staying there. I only want to go upwards,” she said. “The biggest goal is to win Grand Slams, and I think the ranking will come with Grand Slams.”

It was 12 months ago at Roland Garros where Gauff achieved her best performance at a major by reaching the final before losing in straight sets to Iga Swiatek. The tournament is her best Grand Slam in terms of match wins (13) and is the only one where she has reached the quarter-finals or better on multiple occasions. Gauff also won the French Open girls’ title back in 2018 at the age of just 14. 

Five years on from the junior triumph, she has become a regular fixture on the Tour. So much so, that there is already another generation of players on the rise. One of those includes Russia’s Mirra Andreeva who says her ultimate goal in tennis is to break Novak Djokovic’s all-time Grand Slam title record which currently stands at 22. Andreeva, who is only the seventh player under the age of 17 to reach the third round of Roland Garros since 1993, will be Gauff’s next opponent. 

“I think she knows the game well, and she’s proved her position to be here and proved in her results in the past, so I don’t think the age thing matters,” Gauff commented on her next opponent. 
“I’ve never thought about my age, to be honest. This will be my third time playing someone younger than me.
“Honestly, the first two times I didn’t even think about it because when you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”

Gauff will play Andreeva on Saturday. 

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Gael Monfils Withdraws From French Open Clash With Rune



Image via https://twitter.com/ATPTour_ES

After winning a marathon first round clash at the French Open on Tuesday, Gael Monfils has been forced to pull out of the tournament due to a left wrist injury. 


The 36-year-old defeated Sebastian Baez in a five-set thriller in his opening match at his home Grand Slam which took place late at night on the Phillip Chatrier Court. Monfils’ win was the first he has recorded on the Tour since returning to action following a foot problem. He suffered a plantar fascia rupture in his right foot last year which sidelined him from competition for seven months.

Now Monfils’ latest injury setback concerns his wrist which he started to feel pain in whilst playing against Baez. He has subsequently been advised to not continue playing to avoid worsening the issue. 

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. I was quite happy this morning. I woke up quite good, but I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” Monfils said in a late-night press conference on Wednesday. “Felt it during the match, actually the whole match [yesterday]. And unfortunately even [though] we pushed it ’til tonight, just came back again for another exam, and yes, waited a little bit.
“The doctor said [it] was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely said I should stop.”

Monfils has been diagnosed with a Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) injury. He has undergone an Arthroscan (MRI) which will establish how long he may be sidelined from the sport. The Frenchman is set to find out the results later today. 

“I think had it been totally broken it would have been more serious, but it’s partial,” Monfils said. “So I’ll know more about the length of time when I’m off the courts. But the doctor said he hopes I’ll be able to play on grass.”

Due to his withdrawal, Danish sixth seed Holger Rune will move into the third round where he will play either Genaro Alberto Olivieri or Andrea Vavassori who have both come through the qualifying rounds. 

As for the schedule of play at Roland Garros, Monfils’ match was set to take place in the evening slot. It has been replaced by Alexander Zverev’s clash with Alex Molcan. 

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Dissatisfied Aryna Sabalenka Reaches French Open Third Round



Aryna Sabalenka has sealed her place in the last 32 of the French Open for the fourth consecutive year after overcoming a spirited performance from qualifier Iryna Shymanovich. 


The world No.2 powered her way to a 7-5, 6-2, win over her compatriot in a match where she at times struggled to maintain consistency in her shot-making. Sabalenka’s powerful hitting produced some stunning shots but also resulted in some costly errors which proved pragmatic at times.

“I’m not really happy with my game today,” said Sabalenka, who hit 23 unforced errors compared to 21 winners. “I’m going to work a little bit tomorrow and make sure I’m ready for the next round a little bit better than I was today.” 

The first set was a far-from-perfect performance from the reigning Australian Open champion who produced a total of 17 unforced errors. Sabalenka looked to be on a good footing early after breaking for a 4-2 lead but her inconsistency enabled Shymanovich to claw her way back to level. Nudging ahead to a 6-5 lead, the second seed snatched the opener after prevailing in a marathon seven-deuce service game. Two set points came and went before Sabalenka converted her third with the help of a drop shot from her opponent landing out. 

Sabalenka, who is challenging Iga Swiatek for the No.1 spot in Paris, started the second set emphatically by breaking for a 2-0 lead. However, she failed to capitalize on the opportunity as once again Shymanovich broke back. Prompting her to look towards her entourage in the crowd in frustration.

Despite the blip, the 25-year-old bounced back to crush her opponent’s hope of a shock win. Surging to a 5-2 lead, Sabalenka worked her way to three match points with a powerful forehand strike that forced her rival to return the ball out. She prevailed on her second opportunity after a Shymanovich shot crashed into the net.

“It was a tough match,” Sabalenka reflected. “She played really great tennis and I’m happy that no matter what I was able to fight for every point. I’m happy to get this win.” 

Sabalenka will next take on either Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova or Magdalena Frech. Should she win that match, she will achieve her best-ever run at the French Open. Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam where she is yet to reach the semi-final stage.

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