There were a couple of last-minute injury-related withdrawals on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Open. Sorana Cirstea had to pull out of her first-round match against Karolina Pliskova with an abdominal strain while Elise Mertens was forced out of her opener against Alize Cornet with an injury to her right shoulder.
Pliskova and Cornet played Greek lucky losers Despina Papamichail and Valentini Grammatikopoulou respectively. The third-seeded Pliskova won in straight sets 6-2, 7-6(4). The Czech is seeking to replicate her title-winning ways of 2017, 2019-20.
In these three years, Pliskova started off the new tennis season by capping off with a title in its opening week – with all three titles coming at the Brisbane International. In the second round, Pliskova awaits qualifier Anastasia Gasanova.
Gasanova defeated Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4. Meanwhile, Cornet also wrapped up a straight-sets win over Grammatikopoulou. The Frenchwoman won 6-2, 6-2 in just 72 minutes. In the round-of-32, Cornet will face Spain’s Paula Badosa.
Abu Dhabi Open: No fuss for seeds in openers
Cornet’s compatriot Kristina Mladenovic, however, did not have a good start to her 2021 season. Mladenovic lost to Spanish fifth seed Garbiñe Muguruza in their first-round clash.
The former world no. 1 won in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. In the next round, Muguruza will play Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Sasnovich defeated Hungarian qualifier Anna Bondar 6-2, 6-4. Muguruza’s countrywoman Sara Sorribes Tormo also joined her in the second round.
Sorribes Tormo ousted Nadia Podoroska 6-3, 6-3. In the round-of-32, the Spaniard will play Bernarda Pera. Top-seed Sofia Kenin advanced to the second round as well. The American faced a stiff competitor in Chinese qualifier Zhaoxuan Yang but made it through in straight sets 7-6(4), 6-3.
In the second round, Kenin will play Kirsten Flipkens. Aryna Sabalenka seeded fourth, also made her way forward in the Abu Dhabi draw. The Belarusian won against Polona Hercog 7-6(5), 6-2 to set up a second-round clash against Ajla Tomljanovic.
Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko defeated Yafan Wang in their opener. Bondarenko won 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 and will face 15th seed Ons Jabeur in the second round. Wang’s countrywoman Xiyu Wang, however, had better fortunes in her first-round match against Arantxa Rus.
Wang won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 and will play Elena Rybakina in the round-of-32. The sixth seed from Kazakhstan won her opener against Italian qualifier Lucrezia Stefanini in straight sets 6-1, 6-3. Karolina Muchova, 12th seed from the Czech Republic, won her opener against Danka Kovinic 6-4, 6-1.
Muchova will play Daria Kasatkina next in Abu Dhabi. In the British derby between Heather Watson and Jodie Burrage, the former got the better of her countrywoman. Watson bounced from the loss of the opening set to win 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
She will play Ekaterina Alexandrova next. Coco Gauff will play ninth seed Maria Sakkari in the second round after having come through in her opener. The teenager defeated alternate Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0, 6-1 to pick up her 2021 season on a strong note.
Italy’s Bianca Turati who qualified into the main draw reached the second round on Thursday. Turati beat Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1, 6-2 to set up a second-round clash against Veronika Kudermetova. Meanwhile, Marta Kostyuk beat Lucie Hradecka in their opener 6-2, 6-3 to play the second round against Su-Wei Hsieh.
The wily veteran caused one of the two upsets of the day. Hsieh ousted the eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova, coming from a set and a break down in the final set to 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3). The other upset of the day came at the hands of Tamara Zidansek.
The Slovenian defeated the 11th seed Jennifer Brady rallying from the loss of the opening set, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, Zidansek will face Leylah Fernandez. Second seed Elina Svitolina also joined the other top-seeds in the second round of the Abu Dhabi Open.
The Ukrainian beat Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-3 in their opener. In the round-of-32, Svitolina will play either Vera Zvonareva or French qualifier Amandine Hesse. Photo Credit: WTA Insider Twitter