Sofia Kenin wins as the tennis season gets underway despite doubts over what happens next

Sofia Kenin in action

No 1 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States had to grit her way through a tough first set before quelling the challenge of Chinese qualifier Yang Zhaoxuan, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, and moving into the second round of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.

World No 4 Kenin, the 2020 WTA Player of the Year, needed over an hour to finally polish off the opening frame against Yang, a former Top 20 doubles player who is currently ranked World No.789 in singles and is contesting her first singles event since October of 2019. Kenin eventually took the straight-set victory after a total of one hour and 52 minutes of play.

World number 23 Anett Kontaveit was the highest-ranked casualty on day one of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Open in the United Arab Emirates.

It was a good day for the leading names, with Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and Aryna Sabalenka all chalking up straight-sets wins.

Second seed Svitolina was a 6-4, 6-3 winner against Jessica Pegula, third seed Pliskova saw off Despina Papamichail 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), fourth seed Sabalenka defeated Polona Hercog 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 and fifth seed Muguruza beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4.

Sixth seed Elena Rybakina also claimed victory but there were defeats for Marketa Vondrousova and Jennifer Brady.

Eighth seed Vondrousova was beaten 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) by the evergreen Hsieh Su-wei while 11th seed Brady went down to Tamara Zidansek despite winning the first set 6-0.

Coco Gauff began her season in emphatic fashion with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Norway’s Ulrikke Eikeri.

While the tennis season is officially underway for 2021, doubts over how players will prepare for the Australian Open remain as authorities in Melbourne continue to assess how players will prepare amid strict quarentine rules due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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