World no. 72 Daria Kasatkina took down the better-ranked Qiang Wang 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in an hour and 48 minutes for a winning start of the season. The Russian beat the Chinese for the fifth time in six matches, playing better on both the first and second serve to seal the deal in three sets.
Wang scored two breaks and had an early lead in the decider, wasting it dropping the last six games to find herself on the losing side. Daria was impressive in the opening set, dropping two points behind the initial shot and delivering comfortable breaks in games one and seven for 6-2.
The second set was far less fluid, with deuces in five different games and a single break for Wang at 2-1 that carried her over the top, holding at 15 in game nine to grab the set 6-3 and force a decider. The Chinese took the opening two games before Kasatkina shifted into a higher gear, rattling off six straight games to race over the top and advance into the second round.
Veronika Kudermetova ousted the 10th seed Anett Kontaveit 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 28 minutes, beating the Estonian for the third time from as many encounters. The Russian fended off three out of four break chances and stole the opponent’s serve four times, prevailing in the opener that lasted for an hour and sprinting towards the finish line in set number two.
Daria Kasatkina and Maria Sakkari reached the Abu Dhabi second round.
They traded breaks at the beginning of the match and wasted more chances in the middle games, staying neck and neck until game 12 when Kudermetova made the decisive break.
With momentum on her side, the Russian grabbed the second set in less than 30 minutes, delivering two breaks in games two and four and moving over the top with a hold at love at 5-1. The 9th seed Maria Sakkari made a promising start of the season, toppling Anastasia Potapova 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 29 minutes.
It was the first match for the young Russian since March last year, and she couldn’t stay in touch with the Greek, wasting all four break chances and giving serve away four times to hit the exit door and propel Maria through.
Sakkari clinched a break at 1-1 and defended three break chances at 5-4 to wrap up the opener. Carried by that boost, the Greek overpowered her opponent with back-to-back breaks in set number two that sent her over the top.
The 13th seed Yulia Putintseva beat Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes, repelling all five break chances and stealing the rival’s serve thrice to secure a place in the second round.