Sabalenka, Mertens and Podoroska: four reasons to tune in to the Linz Open

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The final tournament of the WTA Tour season will be held in Linz, Austria this week, with a number of top players looking to go out on a high.

From two of the top contenders to the appearance of a Roland-Garros surprise, here’s what to watch for in the Austrian event.

Sabalenka looking for title No 3

As the No 1 seed, Aryna Sabalenka will be looking to secure her third WTA title of the year. The Belarusian claimed a Premier 5 title in early 2020 in Qatar, taking down Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3. After the Coronavirus lockdown and subsequent break in the Tour, she completed a double at Ostrava — winning both the singles and doubles titles, including a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka in the singles draw. However, even though Sabalenka and her usual partner, Elise Mertens, are both participating in the Linz Open, they did not enter the doubles draw.

Mertens trying to break her duck

World No 21 Elise Mertens will look to win her first title of 2020 and her first since February 2019. She hit the ground running when the Tour resumed, making deep runs at the US Open and in the Italian Open (quarter-finals) and Cincinnati Open (semi-finals). She also won the doubles event at Ostrava with Sabalenka. The Belgian appeared in one final this season back in Prague against Simona Halep. However, the Romanian was in form and took down Mertens in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5.

Mertens Ostrava 2020

The lone American

There will be just one American in the draw, but it won’t be 2019 winner Coco Gauff, who made huge waves after earning an entry as a lucky loser and defeating Jelena Ostapenko in the final. Bernarda Pera, a Croatian-American player currently ranked No 61, will hope to make a run as the No 8 seed. Her career-best result in a major also coincided with her best career win, as she took down world No 10 Johanna Konta 6-4, 7-5 back in 2018 to make it to the third round of the Australian Open.

The return of Podoroska

After making it through to the semi-finals of Roland-Garros last month, only to fall to eventual champion Iga Swiatek, Nadia Podoroska will be playing in her first event since her breakthrough. The Argentinian may be more at home on clay but with her confidence up after that stunning run in Paris, perhaps she can end the season on a high.

Nadia Podoroska

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