WTA Abu Dhabi 2021, QF Highlights: Sabalenka in great form, Kudermetova & Kostyuk to meet in SFs

Monday’s quarter-finals (it’s weird to have quarters on a Monday) in Abu Dhabi all went three sets with the last match of the day between Elina Svitolina and Veronika Kudermetova being decided in a third set tiebreak. We’re guaranteed a new WTA finalist from the bottom half of the draw. One thing i’ve noticed this week is that there are so many players that I do not have photographs of! One of my distant wishes for 2021 is the opportunity to watch live tennis but I think it’s very unlikely. Read on for quarter-final highlights from the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.

QF Results 📚

(4) Aryna Sabalenka d. (6) Elena Rybakina, 6-4 4-6 6-3

This match emphasised how fast the court is playing in Abu Dhabi. And how hard Sabalenka and Rybakina hit the ball. Both players were sharp in the first set, which was hard hitting tennis at its best. Sabalenka was unplayable at times in the first set. The Belarusian played a fantastic return game at 5-4* to break a faltering Rybakina. Sabalenka had a lapse in concentration at the start of the second set which Rybakina pounced on, aided by a higher percentage of first serves in play. The serve was huge in this match because it was all about who could get the first strike in. Sabalenka landed the heftier blows in the decider.

Sabalenka is now riding a 13 match winning streak having won back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz at the end of 2020. The fast court coupled with her confidence and hearty spirit is a match made in heaven.

(9) Maria Sakkari d. (1) Sofia Kenin, 2-6 6-2 6-0

Maria Sakkari continued her excellent week in Abu Dhabi with the best win of her career by ranking. Sakkari won the last 10 games of the match! Kenin was doing what she does best in the first set, taking the ball early and effortlessly moving the ball from side-to-side.

The match turned midway through the second set with a lengthy five deuce game. It felt like the opportunity might get away from Sakkari but she secured the vital break of serve on her fourth break point of the game. Kenin’s game unravelled from there on and she put up surprisingly little resistance as the errors mounted. Once again, Sakkari’s serve impressed and she was able to count on it in the second and third sets. Sakkari breezed through the decider, dropping just seven (!) points in the third set.

Marta Kostyuk d. Sara Sorribes Tormo, 0-6 6-1 6-4

This was an incredible effort from Marta Kostyuk to come back from 0-6 0-1 down and then hold her nerve in a tense third set. Kostyuk’s tactics were spot on at the end. She was patient as she waited for the right ball to attack on, and then was very brave in coming forward and trying to finish at the net. Kostyuk’s serving out of the match was very accomplished. A first WTA semi-final for Kostyuk. The first of many…

Veronika Kudermetova d. (2) Elina Svitolina, 5-7 6-3 7-6(3)

The final set of this match was the highest quality tennis i’ve watched so far in 2021. Svitolina was much improved from the Alexandrova match but so was her opponent – it was like night and day compared to that match! Svitolina just didn’t have the cutting edge at the end.

Kudermetova has a very appealing game and was mentally sound in the final set tiebreak. I loved her use of the drop shot in this match and even more so how she follows it in. Decent serve. Big groundstrokes off both wings. Can slice. I’ve been aware of Kudermetova’s steady progression on tour but I think this was the best match i’ve seen her play and it certainly made me sit up and pay attention. I don’t think it will be long until Kudermetova becomes the highest ranked Russian on tour. She could even achieve that feat this week with the title.

Best point  🎾

Loved the angles on show in this point from the third set tiebreak of Svitolina-Kudermetova.

SF watchlist 📺

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Maria Sakkari: Sabalenka leads Sakkari, 3-1 in their H2H including a 6-3 6-0 53-minute rout in Doha last year. Sakkari has been really impressive this tournament. The Greek player is starting to outhit opponents and pick up more and more free points on her serve. Sakkari has elements to her game that can wind up big hitters as she’s smart at mixing up the play and using shape and height on her groundies. Sabalenka has looked awesome. I’d feel like a fool to go against Sabalenka in this form on a FAST hard court.

Veronika Kudermetova vs. Marta Kostyuk: A first time meeting! It’s a big match with both players aiming to reach their first WTA final. Not many data points in terms of their experience at this level and having obviously never played each other. My instinct is Kudermetova gets the win.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

2 thoughts on “WTA Abu Dhabi 2021, QF Highlights: Sabalenka in great form, Kudermetova & Kostyuk to meet in SFs

  1. The match between Svitolina and Kudermetova was just awesome! I *did* feel like Svitolina backed off a little too much in the second set, then started to make quite unusual errors. But credit to the Russian because she beat Elina at her very best in that decider.

    Shame for Rybakina but I’m just happy to see Sabalenka really living up to her potential. You can see that she’s put in a hell of a lot of work in the gym because her movement and fitness – which really let her down last year – has improved immeasurably. She’s going to be tough for any player to beat on a hard court this year!

    And yeah… amazing comeback from Kostyuk. I’m loving her game more and more, everytime I watch her. I do feel like she’s expending a little too much energy between points though, and I wonder how much she has left in the tank after a couple of gruelling matches this week.

    I haven’t actually managed to watch any of Sakkari’s matches this week but I’ve been a fan for quite some time anyway. She puts in the hard work and it shows in her game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was surprised how good that 3rd set was between Svitolina-Kudermetova because I didn’t see much commotion about it on Twitter. It was really enjoyable to watch back.

      I really hope Sabalenka can have a big Slam run this year. Surely it’s coming.

      I wondered what Kostyuk would have left in the tank after that Hsieh match but she’s kept on winning. I’d agree, I feel like the SF might be one step too far.

      I’ve always been a fan of Sakkari as a person, she seems down-to-earth and a genuinely nice person. Never really been a fan of her tennis. I have to say I’m Impressed with how much her game has come on in the past year.


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