Goodbye Doha, Hello Dubai! The first WTA 1000 tournament of 2021 began on Sunday with first round action concluding on Monday. Two of the 16 seeds are out of Dubai at the first hurdle. Kristina Mladenovic beat the number 13 seed, Petra Martic and Barbora Krejcikova upset the number 16 seed, Maria Sakkari with the latter is featured in this post. Also worth a mention is the 18-year-old, Clara Tauson who won her first WTA title in Lyon on Sunday and as a qualifier! Not surprised to see Tauson making waves and she is ONE TO WATCH. Capitals worthy.
Round 1️⃣ Highlights
Coco Gauff d. Ekaterina Alexandrova, 7-6(3) 2-6 7-6(8) (Sunday)
This was a solid candidate for most tortuous watch of 2021 so far. What a mess but omg I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Gauff led 5-1 in the third set, three times failed to serve out the match and missed four match points at 5-3. In a see-saw third set tiebreak, Gauff missed another match point but then ended up saving two of her own before finally converting on her fifth match point.
Even with all the wasted chances and jangling nerves, I still had more faith in Gauff closing this out than Alexandrova. This match brought back painful memories of Svitolina-Alexandrova from Abu Dhabi. Just like that Svitolina match, Alexandrova did well to come back from a hefty deficit. However, again, when she got into a winning position, Alexandrova lacked the killer edge to close. It’s the second time in 2021 that Alexandrova has lost a match from match point up.
Gauff had issues with the serve and forehand, both ongoing sagas. At the end of the day, a win is a win. And it’s a good win for Gauff as Alexandrova is the higher ranked player at #33 in the world. Mentality counts for so much in tennis in these days. Gauff has already developed a knack for being able to win these tight matches.
Barbora Krejcikova d. (16) Maria Sakkari, 6-2 7-6(4) (Sunday)
Barbora Krejcikova earnt the second best singles win of her career, fending off a late charge from a slow-starting, Sakkari. Krejcikova’s best singles win also came this year in the Grampians Trophy over Elena Rybakina. I’ve been high on Sakkari this year so I was surprised at this result. Although she found her intensity in the second set and managed to get back on level terms, Sakkari was mostly passive and made many uncharacteristic errors.
Krejcikova has a wonderful fluidity with her groundstrokes and she’s a fun watch. Krejcikova twice failed to serve out the match. The Czech player did well to stay in the present and won her fair share of the lengthening rallies in the second set tiebreak. Impressive.
Caroline Garcia d. Angelique Kerber, 3-6 6-2 6-4 (Monday)
This was a sad watch for the most part to see two quality players really struggling on court. The first set was an absolute shocker 😂. The pair combined for seven winners to 30 (!) unforced errors. Kerber simply made less errors in the critical moments as Garcia went out in a blaze of errors. And these were BIG errors missing by quite some margin.
The standard of tennis was much better in the final two sets. In the end, I was actually quite impressed with Garcia who won the second set and then reeled off five straight games from 1-4 down in the decider. Kerber was having a lot of joy with the one-two punch and hit a series of glorious forehand winners down-the-line. Garcia didn’t buckle and dominated the final exchanges, playing a very convincing final service game. This was only Garcia’s third victory in nine meetings against Kerber. A noteworthy result for Garcia.
Veronika Kudermetova d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6(3) 6-2 (Sunday)
Kudermetova won the battle of the Russians on day 1. After the pair traded early breaks in the first set, Kudermetova had the more challenging moments on serve but handled them well. She’s a cool customer. Kudermetova saved two break points at 2-2 and then at *4-4 *0-30, Kudermetova hit three consecutive aces. In the first set tiebreak, Kudermetova landed three serves in play that Pavlyuchenkova couldn’t return back in the court.
The second set was mostly plain sailing for Kudermetova, quickly overcoming a late wobble at *4-1. Kudermetova advances to a sixth meeting with Belinda Bencic which sounds like a 50-50 match. Pavs hasn’t really got her game going so far this year. She’s been hosed with some of the draws because prior to this Kudermetova match, her last three losses have all been against the eventual tournament champion.
Best of the rest 🎾
In her first WTA level match of 2021, Amanda Anisimova beat Ana Konjuh, 6-2 6-2. It’s wonderful to see Konjuh back who came through qualifying to reach her first WTA level main draw since Budapest 2019. Konjuh’s bad luck has been next level with numerous surgeries on her elbow.
Garbiñe Muguruza came back from 3-5 down in the second set to beat Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-3 7-5. Not a good match from Muguruza who was missing a lot of forehands. A gutsy performance from Muguruza to win in straights and beat a player who has caused her many problems in the past.
Elise Mertens survived a dicey opener against the lucky loser, Viktoriya Tomova, 4-6 6-2 6-4. Mertens was well below her best and it was one of those matches that is just about getting the W. A commendable display from the world number 140, Tomova.
Funny moment 🤣
Dasha taking down Anett 😂. Watch that shot from Kontaveit! 😮
Recommended reading 📚
Really enjoyed this piece on Iga Swiatek by Reem Abulleil.
Day 3 watchlist 📺
(14) Elena Rybakina vs. Ons Jabeur
(9) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Amanda Anisimova
(12) Marketa Vondrousova vs. Coco Gauff
(6) Belinda Bencic vs. Veronika Kudermetova
(1) Elina Svitolina vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova