WTA Finals Daily Preview: Fresh Faces Invade the 2021 Field - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals Daily Preview: Fresh Faces Invade the 2021 Field

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Anett Kontaveit is one of many players making their WTA Finals debut (twitter.com/WTAFINALS)

The 2021 WTA Finals will have a new look in many ways.  This is the first year the tournament will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, as pandemic restrictions caused this event to be moved from Shenzhen, China.  The WTA Finals have not taken place in North America since 2005, when they occurred in Los Angeles, California.

 

Additionally, six of the eight players in the singles field are making their ATP Finals debut in this discipline.  And uniquely, the field includes only one of this season’s Major singles champions.  Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka and US Open champion Emma Raducanu did not qualify, while Wimbledon champion Ash Barty withdrew due to travel restrictions. 

The only 2021 Slam singles champ in Guadalajara is Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, who starts play on Wednesday at 2:00pm local time against Anett Kontaveit, the eighth and final player to qualify for this event.  And the only two non-debutantes in the field, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, will play in Wednesday’s evening session. 

Round robin play will continue in singles and doubles for the first six days of the tournament, with the semifinals to begin on Tuesday, November 16th, and the championship matches on Wednesday, November 17th.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing matchup, while highlighting the other matches on the schedule. 

Barbora Krejcikova (2) vs. Anett Kontaveit (8) – 2:00pm

Krejickova has previously qualified for this event in doubles, reaching the final with partner Katerina Siniakova in 2018.  She started this year ranked outside the top 60 in singles, but a stellar season finds her at a career-high singles ranking of No.3 in the world.  Barbora went 44-15 in 2021, winning the first three singles titles of her career, the biggest of course being the French Open.  At one stretch mid-season, Krejcikova went an outstanding 29-4.  She has also qualified in doubles alongside Siniakova.  Barbora was a double champion in Paris, as her and Siniakova won the women’s doubles event in Paris.

Less than three months ago, Kontaveit was ranked 30th in the world.  Shortly after hiring Dimtry Tursonov as her coach, she went on an absolute tear.  In the span of only 10 weeks, Anett was 26-2, winning an astounding four titles.  Her title win just 10 days ago in Transylvania is what secured her spot in this event, slightly edging out Ons Jabeur for the final qualifying position.

So will Kontaveit carry that confidence into this event, or will she be exhausted after 28 matches in 70 days?  She told the WTA on Thursday she still feels “in the zone of trying to keep doing as well as I can, focusing on the task at hand.”  By contrast, Krejcikova does not come into this event with any momentum, as she’s currently on a three-match losing streak.  And she spoke at the US Open of feeling physically drained from playing so much tennis this season.  In their first career-meeting, Kontaveit is the far more in-form player, and should be favored.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Garbine Muguruza (6) – Pliskova has dominated this rivalry 8-2 overall, and 8-1 on hard courts.  However, they haven’t played in nearly three years, and Muguruza is now coached by Pliskova’s former coach, Conchita Martinez.  Karolina has advanced to the semifinals the last three years this event was staged, though has never gone farther.  This is Muguruza’s first WTA Finals appearance since 2017.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (2) vs. Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac (7) – The Japanese team won five titles this season, most notably the Miami Open.  Jurak and Klepac are making their WTA Finals debuts at the ages of 37 and 35, respectively, and claimed two titles in 2021.

Nicole Meilchar-Martinez and Demi Schuurs (4) vs. Sam Stosur and Shuai Zhang – In their full year as a team, Melichar-Martinez and Schuurs also won two titles.  Stosur and Zhang prevailed back-to-back in Cincinnati and New York, with the US Open being their second Major title as a team.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

Tomas Martin Etchevery edged past 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-7 (0-7) 6-4  scoring the biggest win of his career. 

Arthur Rinderknech came back from one set down to beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Rinderknech set up a second round against third seed Diego Schwartzman. 

Emil Ruusuvuori broke serve five times in his 6-3 6-2 win over J.J Wolf. 

Sebastian Korda beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 6-4 6-4 setting up a second round match against Maxime Cressy. Novak Djokovic is the top seed of the Tel Aviv tournament, which returns for the first time since 2021.

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Holger Rune reaches the second round at the Sofia Open

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Danish Next Gen rising star Holger Rune edged past Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round at the Sofia Open in his first appearance at this tournament. 

 

Both players went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Rune earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The second set started with a trade of breaks in the first two games. There was little to separate both players in the next games, which went on serve en route to the tie-break. Rune saved a set point at 5-6 in the tie-break of the second set and won the final three points to close out the second set 8-6. 

Rune won his first title in Munich and reached his maiden Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros. 

 “I did not want to go to three sets. I had the break and led 5-2 in the second set tie-break. If it had happened, I was going to fight for sure and try to take it in three, but I am very happy to win in two. I am really working hard every day and trying to improve any small things I can. I think today I stayed very focused all the time. I lost my focus one time on serve, when maybe I should not have been broken, but other than that I am very happy with my first match. The first match is always a  bit difficult”, said Rune. 

Australia’s Alexander Vukic beat Fabio Fognini 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 after 1 hour and 11 minutes. Vukic broke serve in the fifth game to take a 4-2 lead. Fognini converted his fourth break-back point to draw level to 4-4 before saving a break point at 5-5. Fognini went up a 6-3 lead, but he wasted six set points in the tie-break. Vukic closed out the tie-break 13-11 on his third set point. 

Fognini earned a break to take a 2-1 lead. Vukic broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2 in the fourth game. Fognini lost four consecutive points from 4-5 30-0. Vukic earned the decisive break on his first match point to seal the second set 7-5. 

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Dominic Thiem battles past Laslo Djere in three sets in Tel Aviv

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Dominic Thiem came back from one set down to beat Laslo Djere 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in 2 hours and 40 minutes reaching the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. 

 

Djere broke serve in the third game to take a 3-1 lead. Thiem broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Djere earned his second break in the 11th game to close out the first set 7-5. 

Thiem broke serve at deuce in the sixth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Djere broke back in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4. Djere earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. 

Thiem did not face a break point in the third set and converted his fourth break point in the third game to seal the third set 6-4. 

“I did not get off to a great start. I got the break in the second set and I was a bit lucky I could turn the match around. The third set was a real grind. I am vert grateful to everyone who came tonight. It is really nice to play in Israel”, said Thiem.  Roman Safiulin came back from one set down to beat Hugo Grenier 3-6 6-4 6-2 in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Safiulin earned his first ATP Tour win since he beat Mikael Ymer in Belgrade last April.

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