A star-studded field competed in the first tournament of the year on the WTA calendar in 2021 at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre, and fans were not left disappointed. 51 of the top 80 women in the world competed in Abu Dhabi, and once again we were shown how open the women’s game of tennis is right now. Let’s delve into some of the biggest moments from the previous week in Abu Dhabi.
Aryna Sabalenka will dominate in 2021
Ayrna Sabalenka started 2021 just how she ended 2020. The No. 4 seed from Belarus notched her third straight WTA title. It only took the World No. 10 an hour to lift the trophy in Abu Dhabi. She dominated the court, showing her power by hitting 18 winners. Sabalenka will reach a new career high of World No. 7 and will likely head into the Australian Open as the favourite, after her strong showing in Abu Dhabi. Having won 15 of her past matches, the Belarusian superstar won’t be lacking any confidence this year and will look to continue her dominance. "I’m really happy to keep winning, and I’ll do everything I can to keep winning,” the champion told the media.
Veronika Kudermetova shows us how open the women’s game is
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, any WTA tournament is anyone’s for the taking. 2021 will continue to show if a player is up for the fight, they can make a tour level final. Despite this, let that not take away from the Russian’s brilliant week. Kudermetova will a ride a wave of confidence after taking a third-set tiebreaker over Elina Svitolina and reaching the final. Kudermetova will now jump to World No. 36 - if she had won the title it would have taken her to World No. 33 meaning she would’ve almost guaranteed to have been seeded at the Australian Open. Although disappointing not to be seeded in Melbourne and take the title in Abu Dhabi, you wouldn’t want to draw Kudermetova in the first round Down Under.
Coco Gauff isn’t a phase
Many worry that the 16-year-old will burn out or is just riding a wave of momentum that will eventually drop off, but Gauff is here to stay – for a very long time. Although the teen only made the second round at the tournament, she looked great, her form was there, and she was playing aggressive, hard tennis (especially in the first round). She does have a fair few ranking points to defend at this year’s Australian Open so a deeper run in Abu Dhabi would’ve been nice to calm her nerves.
Let us remind you of Marta Kostyuk
World No.99, Marta Kostyuk stunned the tennis world in 2018 when she qualified and made the third round of the Australian Open in 2018. The pressure became too much for the teen sensation as she explained, “that was a really tough time in my life. I was really at my lowest.” The 18-year-old tells the media she is now playing tennis with a new lease on life, with no pressures. Kostyuk had a dream run at the tournament as she didn’t face a single seeded player at Zayed Sports Tennis Centre. She eventually fell in the semi-final in a tight contest and is definitely one to watch heading into February.
Elina Svitolina’s time is now
Despite falling in the quarter-final in three sets, the World No. 5 started 2021 in a modest way. Although she would have liked to have come home with the title, she has enough quality match play to be confident she can go all the way in Melbourne. Now 26-years-old, Svitolina knows her time is now. After a good showing in Abu Dhabi she should be ready to lift her first Grand Slam trophy over her head.
Alja Tomljanovic needs a full-time coach to win
The World No. 68 has the skill to match it with the world’s best, but she needs a coach to launch her into the top 20. In Tomljanovic defence she did face a red hot, Aryna Sabalenka in the second round and put up a good fight. But if the Aussie wants to compete with the world’s best, she needs a full-time coach to be on that journey with her. The 27-year-old would be happy she made the semi-finals in doubles with partner, Sofia Kenin. Tomljanovic is good, but she can be great – with a coach.