WASHINGTON, January 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
The start of the 2021 WTA season has arrived – and it’s a little bit different than usual. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, instead of first-week tournaments taking place as usual in Brisbane, Auckland and Shenzhen across the Asia Pacific region, the new season will commence in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
Four of the Top 10 players in the world – and seven Top 20 stars overall – are in the draw for the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open taking place at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre, including World No. 4 and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States. Seeded No. 1, she will open against a qualifier to be determined. Also, there’s World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine (seeded second), who opens against No. 63 Jessica Pegula of the United States. World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova (seeded third) opposes No. 71 Sorana Cirstea of Romania; and World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who won the last two tournaments of 2020, in Ostrava and Linz, will face No. 49 Polona Hercog of Slovenia.
The fifth through eighth seeds are No. 5 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain (ranked 15th), No. 6 seed Elena Rybakina of Russia (ranked 19th) No. 7 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium (ranked 20th), and No. 8 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic (ranked 21st).
Tennis is back 🙌
Top players return to the court in Abu Dhabi!
— wta (@WTA) January 5, 2021
Main draw play (with 64 singles and 28 doubles teams) begins Wednesday and continues through January 13. The singles winner of this WTA 500-series outdoor hard-court event will pocket $68,570 and earn 470 WTA rankings points.
“I’m excited for this year,” Kenin said during a virtual media chat session on Tuesday afternoon. In speaking about playing at Abu Dhabi, she noted: “It’s a warm-up event [for the Australian Open]. It’s good to have some practice matches – and, hopefully, I’ll have a few here. Australia’s going to be interesting with two weeks quarantine and we’ll see how it goes there.
“I’m excited to be here. It was kind of like a last-minute decision. A few people asked me why I’m going. I just said, ‘to get out of the house and get some matches in.’
“The bubble isn’t the easiest thing. It’s hard on all of us. It is what it is. I’m happy we’re able to play, able to compete. We should be grateful.”
— Sofia Kenin (@SofiaKenin) January 5, 2021
Wednesday’s order of play
Twelve main draw singles featuring six seeded players and two main draw doubles matches highlight the first day of the tournament beginning at 10 a.m. (GMT + 4 hours). The six singles seeds in action include: No. 9 seed Maria Sakkari (ranked 22nd) of Greece against No. 101 Anastasia Potapova of Russia; No. 10 seed Anett Kontaveit (ranked 23rd) of Estonia versus No. 46 Veronika Kudermetova; No. 13 seed Yulia Putintseva (ranked 28th) of Kazakhstan against No. 85 Martina Trevisan of Italy; No. 15 seed Ons Jabeur (ranked 31st) of Tunisia versus No. 38 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova; No. 16 seed Donna Vekic (ranked 32nd) against No. 62 Bernarda Pera of the United States, and No. 17 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova (ranked 33rd) versus No. 80 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, an intriguing first-round doubles match pairs Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza and Jennifer Brady of the United States against American duo Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
Additionally, there are eight qualifying singles matches on the schedule and the eight winners will be placed into the main draw.
Anett Kontaveit and @mariasakkari are the Top 10 seeds in action in Abu Dhabi! 👊
— wta (@WTA) January 5, 2021
Abu Dhabi news and notes
• There are five players in the main draw who have enjoyed previous success in the Middle East. Aryna Sabalenka won last year’s Qatar Total Open, while Elise Mertens won Doha in 2019, Karolina Pliskova in 2017 and Vera Zvonareva in 2011. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina won back-to-back titles in Dubai in 2017-18.
• There are five teenagers who gained direct entry into the main draw: Coco Gauff (16) of the United States, Leylah Fernandez (18) of Canada, Marta Kostyuk (18) of Ukraine, Anastasia Potapova (19) of Russia and Wang Xiyu (19) of China.
• A total of 26 countries and regions are represented in the main draw, which includes six players from Russia and six from the United States. Representing Russia are: Ekaterina Alexandrova, Daria Kasatkina, Veronika Kudermetova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anastasia Potapova and Vera Zvonareva. From the United States are: Jennifer Brady, Coco Gauff, Jamie Loeb, Sofia Kenin, Jessica Pegula and Bernarda Pera.
Let the game begin! 🤗 pic.twitter.com/xW53zy0xVj
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) January 5, 2021