Kenin and Gauff through unscathed in Abu Dhabi
Top seed Sofia Kenin had to work to avoid a major upset at the Abu Dhabi Women’s Tennis Open on Thursday.
— wta (@WTA) January 7, 2021
Seven of the nine seeds in action on Thursday advanced, with only Marketa Vondrousova and Jennifer Brady falling by the wayside.
- Also see: Abu Dhabi’s full draw
Those upsets came despite Vondrousova and Brady each winning their opening sets – against Hsieh Su-wei and Tamara Zidansek respectively – the latter racing through 6-0 in the first before being reeled back in.
16 break points against Kenin, none lost
Kenin and Gauff had no such problems, however.
But top seed Kenin – the 2020 WTA Player of the Year – had to stay patient as she took down 789th-ranked Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
The first set lasted more than an hour and saw Kenin face five break points, defending each of them, with another 11 Yang opportunities following in the second, although the world number four proved more clinical en route to victory.
“It was the first match, obviously a bit of nerves, I had to find my groove,” Kenin said afterwards. “Conditions weren’t easy, it was quite windy.
First match of the season
First victory of the season
— USTA (@usta) January 7, 2021
“The first set was tough for me. I couldn’t find the ball, I guess.”
Next up for Gauff: Maria Sakkari
Gauff was comfortable throughout, meanwhile, swatting aside Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0 6-1 to tee up a meeting with Maria Sakkari.
Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka each also progressed in two sets, as did Garbine Muguruza, overcoming a potentially tricky hurdle in the form of Kristina Mladenovic.
Muguruza was a 6-2 6-4 winner and afterwards said:
“I was trying to do my game, dominating, not letting her dominate the point.
“It’s the first match of the year, it’s a little bit tricky to get the feeling, but I’m happy with the win.”