Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wk.1- Act 1, Scene 1 (2021)

In 2021, teams that win together, leap together...




With the pandemic quarantine protocols in place Down Under, the latest WTA season kicked off not in the usual environs, but instead did so in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, to be specific, as well as Dubai, as the latter city hosted the Australian Open qualifying tournament. It's the first time a WTA season's opening week didn't include a points-garnering event in either Australia or New Zealand since 1995 (Jakarta, Indonesia).

But while the time and place, as well as the finishing date (in this case, a Wednesday) were different, one thing carried over into the new year from 2020. No, not the irksome "new normal" in the ongoing pandemic society, nor the maddening drift into third world displays and autocratic sequencing in the land of the world's oldest democracy, but the continued untouchable aspect of Aryna Sabalenka's tennis.

After ending the previous season on a nine-match, two singles title (plus one in doubles) run that saw her hop over none other than Serena Williams to finish the year in the Top 10, the Belarusian's tree of confidence only continued to grow new, leafy branches on the brilliantly colored Abu Dhabi courts.

Might the Boom that has for so long seemed possible in Sabalenka's game have finally found its proper footing and been unlocked and prepped for a true slam run?



Well, after a break of a few weeks before everyone convenes in February in Melbourne (first in two regular tour events, then the first major of the year), we'll soon begin to find out.



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*WEEK 1 CHAMPIONS*
ABU DHABI, UAE (WTA 500/Hardcourt Outdoor)
S: Aryna Sabalenka/BLR def. Veronikva Kudermetova/RUS 6-2/6-2
D: Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara (JPN/JPN) def. Hayley Carter/Luisa Stefani (USA/BRA) 7-6(5)/6-4


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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Aryna Sabalenka/BLR
...for Sabalenka, it was almost as if 2020 never ended. For most such a notion would be akin to a nightmare, but for the Belarusian it's a wonderful (and potentially lucrative) reality.



In Abu Dhabi, the 22-year old world #10 claimed her third straight title dating back to her nine-match run to close out last season, dropping just one set in six matches (in the QF) while getting victories over Polona Hercog, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina (6-4/4-6/6-3), Maria Sakkari and Veronika Kudermetova in the final. Her 6-2/6-2 title-clinching win over the Russian give her nine for the WTA career and extends her winning streak to 15 matches, just two from matching Simona Halep's 2020-best run of 17, the longest winning streak on tour since 2013. Sabalenka jumps to a career-best #7 in the next rankings, and will surely arrive on Day 1 of the Australian Open as the hottest player on tour.

We'll see what happens then.

If the inherent pressure of the majors (well, and Naomi at the '18 Open in that Boom-shaka-Osaka Round of 16 clash) has held Sabalenka back to this point, well, she'll never have carried more on her shoulders than she will into Melbourne.

Will that prove be an obstacle, or an opportunity?
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RISERS: Maria Sakkari/GRE and Sara Sorribes Tormo/ESP
...over the last two seasons, 25-year old Sakkari has made huge strides by winning her maiden title ('19 Rabat), cracking the Top 20 (February '20) and posting eight Top 10 wins. Last season, even with just three majors on the schedule, she recorded a career-best eight combined wins, reaching the Round of 16 in both Melbourne and New York.



Noting her commitment to a more aggressive style of play, Sakkari sparked yet again in Week 1 of 2021, opening with an Abu Dhabi win over back-from-injury Anastasia Potapova and then reeling off what will surely be one of the more impressive non-major triptych of victories of the year over Coco Gauff (matching her win over the teenager last summer) and *both* of last year's Australian Open finalists, Garbine Muguruza and Sofia Kenin, running off ten straight games to close out the Bannerette and reach the semifinals with her fifth career Top 5 win (and, over the world #4, her biggest) before finally being knocked off by Sabalenka.

Sorribes Tormo, 24, took an interesting route through 2020, starting 4-6 before the shutdown, then honing her game during the unofficial exhibition-filled months, winning multiple Mapfre League titles in Spain. Once WTA play resumed, her improved form stuck as she reached QF in Prague and Ostrava!!! and won an $80K challenger crown (her biggest to date, as she's 0-4 in $100K title matches) on her way to a 13-7 finish (9-3 from mid-September forward).



In Abu Dhabi, the trend continued as the Spaniard reached another QF, taking down RG semifinalist Nadia Podoroska (her doubles partner for the week) in windy conditions, Bernarda Pera (in 3:20) and then upstart Russian Anastasia Gasanova. Sorribes won the 1st set at love over Marta Kostyuk in the QF, but eventually lost in three sets. She'll edge up a bit to a new career high in the new rankings, rising from #66 to #62.
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SURPRISES: Anastasia Gasanova/RUS and Tamara Zidansek/SLO
...the wave of GenPDQ Russians of note has been increasing in numbers and intensity the last couple of years, and Gasanova added her name to the Watch List in Abu Dhabi. The 21-year old, ranked #292, qualified to make her WTA MD debut, then backed it up (and then some) with wins over Mona Barthel and (wait for it) #6 Karolina Pliskova for her first career Top 100 win. She ultimately lost a round later to Sara Sorribes Tormo, but will jump 57 spots in the new rankings to #235 (putting her in the Russian Top 20).



Zidansek, 23, had her moments in singles in '20, including notching wins over Vika Azarenka (Monterrey) and Katerina Siniakova (Prague) and reaching the Acapulco QF, but found her biggest success in doubles, winning a pair of Restart titles alongside Arantxa Rus. In Abu Dhabi, she made the court her own with great back-to-back victories to open her season over Jennifer Brady (after dropping the 1st set at love) and Leylah Fernandez before going out at the hands of Marta Kostyuk in the 3rd Round.



The Slovenian (#87) has managed to win 1st Round matches in Melbourne in both her MD appearances the last two years (def. Gavrilova in '19, losing to Serena in the 2r in '20), and will soon get the chance to do so again.
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VETERANS: Laura Siegemund/Vera Zvonareva, GER/RUS
...the veteran pair put on a title run at last year's U.S. Open in their first doubles pairing. This week in their third outing (they lost in the 2r at Roland Garros) in Abu Dhabi they put their singles losses -- Zvonareva 2r vs. Svitolina, Siegemund 1r vs. Flipkens -- behind them and pushed all the way into the semifinals, winning back-to-back match TB over Podoroska/Sorribes and Brady/Muguruza before falling 10-8 in another to eventual runners-up Carter/Stefani.

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COMEBACK: Mihaela Buzarnescu/ROU
...Buzarnescu didn't ultimately reach the Australian Open main draw in the qualifing tournament held in Dubai, but the Romanian did cross yet another benchmark in yet another comeback.

After being off tour for years due to injury, a stretch during which she earned her doctorate, Buzarescu returned in '17 and soon after found great success. In 2018, she reached the RG Round of 16 and Wimbledon 3rd Round, reached three finals (winning her first tour title in San Jose), had her first three career Top 10 wins, and reached the Top 20. On a 28-10 run that summer, she injured her ankle just before the U.S. Open (days after winning the title and reaching the Top 20) and was forced to miss the season's final major. She's gone 1-5 in slam MD since, and has recently had to come back from another injury break.

In Dubai, she posted her first win since September '19 with a straight sets victory in AO qualifying over Lara Arruabarrena.



A pair of '17 Bannerette girls junior champs stood between Buzarnescu and the MD. She followed up her Q1 win with a three-set victory over Claire Liu ('17 WI), and led Whitney Osuigwe ('17 RG) 6-2/5-2 in the final round of qualifying before the 18-year old stormed back to get the win.

Not the ending that Buzarnescu would have liked, but surely an encouraging week to take into the rest of the 2021 season.
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FRESH FACES: Veronika Kudermetova/RUS and Marta Kostyuk/UKR
...23-year old Kudermetova's quest (well, it's at least that for the Prediction Blowout) to become the top-ranked Russian in the WTA (she entered the week as the fourth-best, at #46) got off to a very good start in Abu Dhabi as the Hordette clawed her way into her maiden tour singles final on the backs of victories over Anett Kontaveit, Bianca Turati, Paula Badosa, Elina Svitolina (she trailed 4-2 in the 3rd before securing her fifth career Top 10 win) and Marta Kostyuk.

Kudermetova fell in straights sets (welcome to the club) to Sabalenka in the final, but she'll shoot up to #36 in the next rankings, a career high that will position her as the new number-TWO Russian behind #33 Ekaterina Alexandrova.



Meanwhile, 18-year old Kostyuk (#99) reached her first tour-level semifinal after posting wins over Lucie Hradecka, Hsieh Su-wei (back from 3-1 down in the 3rd), Tamara Zidansek and Sara Sorribes Tormo (after losing the 1st at love). After fighting late in the season in '20 to finally make her Top 100 breakthrough, the Ukrainian now has new goals to hunt down with her coach/mom by her side, as she'll rise to a best-yet #78 as she heads to Melbourne (where she won the AO juniors in '17, and made her slam debut a year later with a headline-grabbing 3rd Round run at age 15).

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DOWN: Dayana Yastremska/UKR
...the past year hasn't been a good one for *many* people, but Yastremska's troubles may top the list when it comes to the WTA.

Yastremska, with new coach Sascha Bajin in her camp, coasted into '20 on a wave of promise and potential, and kicked things off with a final run in Adalaide in her second event that included victories over the likes of Babos, Kerber, Vekic and Sabalenka. She ulimately lost to world #1 Ash Barty. She soon after defeated new AO champ Sofia Kenin in Doha. Then things took a turn.

With the tour in shutdown mode due to the pandemic, Yastremska played with social media fire by staunchly defending Novak Djokovic immediately after his COVID Follies tour, then in short order found herself in the middle of a "black face" blowback due to an Instagram post. When play resumed, she parted ways with Bajin after a loss to Naomi Osaka in New York (he'd complimented Osaka, his charge during her '18 U.S. Open and '19 AO runs, after the match... and while it may not have been *the* cause, it likely didn't sit well). After wins over Amanda Anisimova and Camila Giorgi in Rome, Yastremska fell in the 1st Round at Roland Garros to wrap up her '20 slam season at 2-3 (she'd reached a Round of 16 and two 3rd Rounds in '19). She ended her season on a four-match losing skid, finishing at 15-12 and #29 after never having made it over the Top 20 hump (she was as high as #21). Since the end of the '20 season, Yastremska announced that she'd contracted COVID-19.

This week we learned that Yastremska failed an out-of-competition doping test in November and had been provisionally banned. She denies having knowingly ingested anything that led to the positive test. In the meantime, she'll likely miss the Australian Open while she awaits her fate in what amounts to her "day in court" in the whole ball-of-thickets that is the WADA procedural web.

So far, after so many wished for it to arrive, 2021 is displaying a personality that seems especially biting and lacking in remorse.

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ITF PLAYER: Jessica Bouzas Maneiro/ESP
...the 18-year old Spaniard claimed her maiden pro title at the $15K in Cairo. The unseeded teenager posted wins over four seeds on her way to the title: #5 Anastasia Nefedova, #1 Chanel Simmonds, #4 Fanny Ostlund, and #7 Chantal Skamlova in a three-set final which saw her rally from a set down to prevail 2-6/7-5/6-3.

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JUNIOR STAR: Gabriella Price/USA
...a hyped phenom since she was in single digits (as in years on earth, not in the rankings), the now 17-year old Price last week recorded her best pro result to date with a semifinal run at a $15K challenger in Monastir, Tunisia, in her fifteenth career event (she'd reached a QF in Cancun in December '19, where she'd lost to Marcela Zacarias). This time, Price fell to the eventual champ, Pastry Salma Djoubri.

Price won the USTA Girls Clay Court Nationals in 2019, and the Grade 1 Mundial Juvenil de Tenis in '18 in Ecuador.

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DOUBLES: Shuko Aoyama/Ena Shibahara, JPN/JPN
...somewhat under the radar, the Japanese pair (California-born former UCLA Bruin star Shibahara represented the U.S. until '19) have become a true force on tour over the last few seasons. Week 1's Abu Dhabi title run, their fourth win as a duo, places them behind only the likes of Hsieh/Strycova and Babos/Mladenovic for the most tour titles claimed since the start of the 2019 season.

After winning a 12-10 match TB in their opening Abu Dhabi match over Klepac/Kostyuk, Aoyama & Shibahara didn't lose another set en route to the title, including winning 4 & 1 over top-seeded Hsieh/Krejcikova in the QF prior to dispatching Hayley Carter & Luisa Stefani 6 & 4 in the final. All of 22-year old Shibahara's tour titles have come while partnering Aoyama, while this win gives the 33-year old veteran thirteen crowns in her tour career.

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WHEELCHAIR: --
...Yui Kamiji, on the heels of her banner '20 season and with Japan scheduled to host the Olympics & Paralympics later this year, heads a list of home nation (potential) Gold medal favorites in tennis that include Naomi Osaka and fellow wheelchair star Shingo Kunieda (whose career slam title totals -- 24s, 21d -- have actually surged *past* the combined efforts of the legendary Esther Vergeer).

Kamiji and Kunieda recently appeared together on the court...



While, off the court, Kamiji got a new chair, as well as performed at least one other rather routine ritual...



=TRANSLATED=
Thank you for visiting Sports King! !!
Unfortunately I lost, but it was a fun match ✨
No, but regrettable! It ’s really frustrating! !!
Be sure to revenge 🔥
Please wait, Taka-san, Date-san 😤

Yesterday was the first hit of the new year 🎾
And clean the car that ran for a year
I'll have you run a lot this year 🚙

#First hit #Car wash #fj Cruiser
#Lucky color is blue #Smoky blue

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1. Abu Dhabi 3rd Rd. - Elina Svitolina def. Ekaterina Alexandrova
...6-2/6-7(5)/7-6(8). How the Svitolina Turns...

Svitolina, up a break three times in the 2nd set, served for the match at 5-4. Forced to a TB by Alexandrova, Svitolina held a mini-break lead three times before the Russian ultimately won it 7-5. In the 3rd, Alexandrova took a 3-1 lead and served for the win at 5-4. She DF'd on the first point and was quickly broken. Still, taken into a deciding TB by Svitolina, Alexandrova held two MP in the breaker, only to see Svitolina prevail on her own second MP.



One Round later...

Abu Dhabi QF - Veronika Kudermetova def. Elina Svitolina
...5-7/6-3/7-6(3). With the bottom half of the draw bereft of seeds other than herself, #2 Svitolina led *another* Russian 4-2 in the 3rd set. Broken in game #10, Svitolina broke back when Kudermetova served for the match at 6-5. In the deciding TB, Kudermetova took a quick 3-0 lead before finally winning 7-3 on MP #2.



Kudermetova fired eleven aces in the match and held a 50-19 edge in winners, but was knotted 108-108 with Svitolina in total points on the day. The Russian had no particular reason to fear the Ukrainian, having earlier recorded a win over her in the 2019 Kremlin Cup via a 7-5 3rd set.
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2. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Bernarda Pera def. Donna Vekic
...7-6(10)/2-6/6-4. In the first nail-biter of the new season, Pera rallies from a 4-1 deficit in the 3rd to win in a three-hour contest that had seen Vekic earlier squander a 5-3 lead (and 3 SP) in the 1st as well as a 4-1 lead in the TB, then reel off nine straight games after falling behind 7-6/2-0 in the 2nd set en route to her 3rd set edge.



Of course, leave it to the WTA team to create even *more* drama around this and other matches, as one of the "new ideas" that was left out of the details regarding the tour's recent "comprehensive rebranding" was (apparently) the debut of an "alternate reality scoreboard." #ForTheGame



Ah, but have no fear... the WTA's team of brainiacs are on the case.



Sometimes you get the idea that a large part of the WTA organization collectively exists within one of those horror movies where the frightened teenager terrorized by a series of scary phone calls is told by an emergency hotline operator that the call has been traced... and it's coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!
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3. Abu Dhabi 3rd Rd. - Sofia Kenin def. Yulia Putintseva 3-6/7-6(5)/6-4
Abu Dhabi QF - Maria Sakkari def. Sofia Kenin 2-6/6-2/6-0
...7-5/6-2. Kenin's season revved up early as she overcame a Putintseva MP at 6-5 in the 2nd set of the 3rd Round. The reigning AO champ then led Sakkari 6-2/2-2 before the Greek caught fire and pounded her into a rare submission, sweeping through the final ten games of the match.

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4. Abu Dhabi 2nd Rd. - Maria Sakkari def. Coco Gauff
...7-5/6-2. Sakkari follows up her win over Gauff in the opening round of last year's Cincy-at-New York event with another some 6,844 miles away.
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5. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina def. Wang Qiang
...6-2/3-6/6-2. Kasatkina opened the season with a three-set victory over Wang, who was playing in her first match since Doha last February. After a walkover from Karolina Muchova in the 2nd Round, the Hordette fell 3 & 4 to Elena Rybakina in the 3rd. Rybakina had been on the other side of the next in Kasatkina's final 2020 win in a 2nd Round match-up in Ostrava!!! last October.

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6. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Tamara Zidansek def. Jennifer Brady
...0-6/6-3/6-4. Brady burst out of the gates in '21 in a fashion similar to how she caught fire to begin last summer's Restart. But while she opened her season with a love set in Abu Dhabi, she wasn't able to sustain the same sort of form that saw her go 10-2 in North America last year as her low first serve percentage (47%), unforced errors and a low BP coversion rate (4-of-18) helped lead to a loss in a match in which she actually won more points (94-93) than Zidansek.

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7. $15K Antalya TUR Final - Tamara Curovic def. Aurora Zantedeschi
...7-5/7-6(4). The 26-year old Serb takes home her first singles title since 2013, and third of her career (she's managed to win 30 WD crowns, though). The win over the young Italian was preceded by Curovic ousting top-seeded Sofia Shapatava in the semis.

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8. Abu Dhabi 2nd Rd. - Sofia Kenin def. Kirsten Flipkens
...5-7/5-4 ret. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch...

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1. Abu Dhabi Final - Aryna Sabalenka def. Veronika Kudermetova
...6-2/6-2. Sabalenka's title run continues to edge her to the front of the "in-waiting" line for a major title, as she moved two ahead of the field (well, Halep) for the most titles won since 2018, has now won nearly twice as many hard court crowns since '19 as the players with the second-most (7 to 4), as well as reaching the most tour finals since '18 and the most semis over the past year. Melbourne, here she comes.

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2. Abu Dhabi 2nd Rd. - Anastasia Gasanova def. Karolina Pliskova
...6-2/6-4. In Pliskova's first tournament under new coach Sascha Bajin, it took just two matches for the Czech to be ousted in straight sets, losing to #292-ranked qualifier Gasanova in her worst ranking defeat since falling to #444-ranked German Julia Kimmelman in the QF of a $25K challenger in Grenoble, France in February 2013.



By the way, Kimmelman (now #1137) lost this past week in the 1st Round of a $15K challenger in Antalya to eventual champion Tamara Curovic.
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3. Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Hsieh Su-wei def. Marketa Vondrousova
...3-6/6-3/7-6(3). Vondrousova, last seen becoming Iga Swiatek's first victim in her run to a Roland Garros title, had a chance to follow up her 5-10 '20 record ("salvaged" by her 4-win SF run in Rome) with an encouraging victory against the tricky veteran. She served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, only to drop serve and then lose a deciding TB.
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4. Abu Dhabi 2nd Rd. - Marta Kostyuk def. Hsieh Su-wei
...6-3/6-7(4)/6-3. A round later, Kostyuk pounced where Vondrousova did not. But it took some doing. After losing a 6-3/5-1 lead, the teenager was forced to battle back from a 3-1 3rd set deficit en route to her first career tour-level semifinal result.
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5. Abu Dhabi Q2 - Bianca Turati def. Martina Caregaro 6-0/6-3
Abu Dhabi 1st Rd. - Bianca Turati def. Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1/6-2
... The Texas Longhorn product qualified for her tour-level MD debut, then notched her first career WTA win over the returning Kazakh vet, playing in her first match in eleven months. After having 2019 ankle surgery, Shvedova became a mother (twins!) before briefly returning to action early last season. In March, she was the first tour player who went into mandatory COVID-19 quarantine. This was just Shvedova's second singles match since May 2017.

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*TOP Q-PLAYERS*



1. Francesca Jones, GBR (20, #141) ...the Brit was born with the rare genetic condition Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia, leaving her with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, and just seven toes. She was told she'd never be able to be a professional tennis player, but she's gone about proving the doubters wrong. Her Dubai run -- with wins over #28 Monica Niculescu, Jan Fett (in 3 sets) and Lu Jiajing (1 game allowed) -- puts her into her maiden slam MD.

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2. Rebecca Marino, CAN (30, #312/PR) ...Marino has had a rough go of things over the years, as she left the tour due to depression from 2013-17. After making a comeback, she suffered a bad foot injury, and while she was out with that her father died. Now 30, the Canadian returned in Dubai for her first event since the 2019 RG. Wins over Jaqueline Cristian, #24 Viktoriya Tomova and Maryna Zanevska put her into her first slam MD since the 2013 AO. Her most recent -- and only -- Australian Open win came in the 1st Round in 2011.

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3. Sara Errani, ITA (33, #131) ...Errani, with her second straight slam Q-run, battled through three three-setters in Dubai (def. Georgina Garcia-Perez and Ana Konjuh) to reach the MD, her first in Melbourne since 2017 (she lost in qualifying in both '18 and '20). The Italian reached the AO quarterfinals in '12.

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*OTHER AO QUALIFIERS*

Timea Babos, HUN (27/#115) - the 4-time slam WD champ has reached the 3rd Rd. just once ('16 US) in 31 singles MD appearances in majors
Clara Burel, FRA (19/#236) - 2019's junior #1 reached the 3rd Rd. at last year's RG
Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA (19/#132) - in her second straight slam Q run, she dropped no sets in Dubai
Olga Danilovic, SRB (19/#183) - the '18 Moscow champ (as a LL) finally makes her slam MD debut
Mayo Hibi, JPN (24/#182) - her only other slam MD came as a qualifier at the 2015 U.S. Open
Kaja Juvan, SLO (20/#104) - the AO is the only major where she's yet to win a MD match, but this is her second straight AO qualifying run. She swept all six sets in the UAE.
Greet Minnen,BEL (23/#110) - with back-to-back AO qualifying runs, her only slam MD win came last year in Melbourne (over Sasnovich)
Whitney Osuigwe, USA (18/#161) - 0-4 in slam MD matches, the teen had to fight back from 6-2/5-2 down (vs. Buzarnescu) in the final Q round to get a third chance
Chloe Paquet, FRA (26/#187) - her four previous slam MD appearances came as a WC in Paris (2017-20)
Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL (33/#136) - well, here she is again. Pironkova reached the U.S. QF and RG 3r last year after a long pregnancy break, but the AO (1r/2r in all 12 appearances, the last in '17) is the only major where she's yet to reach the final eight
Liudmila Samsonova, RUS (22/#127) - 0-4 in slam MD matches, she's qualified the last two years for the AO
Valeria Savinykh, RUS (29/#225) - after sweeping through her three Dubai matches, the Russian will play in her first slam MD since the 2013 AO (3rd Rd.)
Mayar Sherif, EGY (24/#128) - as a RG qualifier she was the first Egyptian to reach a slam singles MD, and now the same can be said for the Australian Open

*AO LUCKY LOSER*
Ysaline Bonaventure, BEL (26/#122) - 0-3 in slam MD


1. AO Q3 - Whitney Osuigwe def. #22 Mihaela Buzarnescu 2-6/7-6(1)/6-2
...Osuigwe stormed back from 6-2/5-2 down to win and reach her fourth slam MD. She took Bianca Andreescu to three sets in her only AO appearance in 2019.

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2. AO Q1 - Ellen Perez def. Caroline Dolehide 6-3/5-7/7-5
...Dolehide forced a 3rd set after trailing 6-3/4-2, then Perez turned the tables and recovered from a double-break down in the deciding set. The Aussie lost a round later in three sets to Varvara Lepchenko.

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3. AO Q1 - (WC) Ana Konjuh def. #4 Anna Lena Friedsam 6-2/6-7(5)/6-4
...Konjuh, still pushing on after four elbow surgeries, led 6-2/5-1 and had 3 MP in the 2nd, but was forced to go three to take out the #4-seeded German. The Croat eventually lost in the Q3 to Sara Errani, as the '18 Wimbledon remains her most recent major MD.
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4. AO Q3 - Clara Burel def. Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-4/6-4
AO Q1 - #9 Katarina Zavatska def. Clara Tauson 6-3/6-3
...the '18 junior #1 beats out the '19 U.S. Open girls champ to reach the AO MD, while '19 AO junior champ Tauson won't be making waves in a *second* straight slam 1st Round match.

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5. AO Q2 - Yuan Yue def. #25 Genie Bouchard 6-2/6-4
...the #230-ranked Chinese played upends #141 Bouchard's AO hopes, preventing yet another Canadian from reaching a MD that will already sport the likes of Andreescu, Fernandez and Marino.
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HM- AO Q3 - #7 Timea Babos def. #20 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2/6-7(5)/6-2
...oh, Schmiedy.
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*AUSTRALIAN OPEN "Q-PLAYER OF THE WEEK" WINNERS*
2006 Ashley Harkleroad, USA
2007 Julia Vakulenko, UKR
2008 Julia Schruff, GER
2009 Elena Baltacha, GBR
2010 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
2011 Vesna Manasieva, RUS
2012 Paula Ormaechea, ARG
2013 Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2014 Belinda Bencic, SUI
2015 Renata Voracova, CZE
2016 Naomi Osaka, JPN
2017 Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
2018 Marta Kostyuk, UKR
2019 Astra Sharma, AUS
2020 Ann Li, USA
2021 Francesca Jones, GBR

=LOW-RANKED 2021 SLAM QUALIFIERS=
#312 - Rebecca Marino, CAN (AO)
#241 - Francesca Jones, GBR (AO)
#236 - Clara Burel, FRA (AO)
#225 - Valeria Savinykh, RUS (AO)

*YOUNGEST 2021 SLAM...*
=WC=
AO - Wang Xiyu, CHN (19)
AO - Destanee Aiava, AUS (20)
=Q=
AO - Whitney Osuigue, USA (18)
AO - Clara Burel, FRA (19)
AO - Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA (19)
AO - Olga Danilovic, SRB (19)
AO - Francesca Jones, GBR (20)
AO - Kaja Juvan, SLO (20)
=PR=
AO - Katie Boulter, GBR (24)

=OLDEST 2021 SLAM...=
=WC=
AO - Samantha Stosur, AUS (36)
AO - Arina Rodionova, AUS (31)
AO - Dasha Gavrilova, AUS (26)
=Q=
AO - Sara Errani, ITA (33)
AO - Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL (33)
AO - Rebecca Marino, CAN (30)
AO - Valeria Savinykh, RUS (29)
=LL=
AO - Ysaline Bonaventure, BEL (26)
=PR=
AO - Vera Zvonareva, RUS (36)
AO - Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ (33)
AO - Mona Barthel, GER (30)
AO - Rebecca Marino, CAN (30)-Q

*AUSTRALIAN OPEN WILD CARDS*
Destanee Aiava, AUS (20) - 0-3 in AO 1r matches
Lizette Cabrera, AUS (23) - still looking for her first slam MD win in her 6th attempt (0-3 AO)
Dasha Gavrilova, AUS (26) - back from injury, the IG wunderkind in a two-time 4r (2016-17) and "Dasha Show" participant in Melbourne
Maddison Inglis, AUS (23) - gets her first MD spot in the AO since '16
Arina Rodionova, AUS (31) - the vet has played in the AO (Q or MD) in all but one year since 2008. She finally recorded her maiden 1r win last season.
Astra Sharma, AUS (25) - notched a 1r win in her slam debut in Melbourne two years ago. Won a round in Paris in '20 as a LL.
Samantha Stosur, AUS (36) - plays in her 19th AO in the last 20 years, and her 13th straight. Unfortunately, the new parent hasn't won a 1st Rounder since 2015.
Wang Xiyu, CHN (19) - the former junior slam champ ('18 US) makes her AO debut as she seeks her first career slam win (1r '19 US).
--
NOTE: Cabrera, Rodionova and Sharma all received WC at '20 AO

*AUSTRALIAN OPEN PR IN MD*
Mona Barthel, GER
Katie Boulter, GBR
Rebecca Marino, CAN (Q)
Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
Vera Zvonareva, RUS





=ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates=





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**BACKSPIN WEEK 1 PLAYERS-OF-THE-WEEK**
2002 Venus Williams, USA
2003 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Lindsay Davenport/USA, Eleni Daniilidou/GRE (co-PoW)
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2007 Dinara Safina, RUS
2008 Li Na, CHN
2009 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2012 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Serena Williams, USA
2015 Maria Sharapova/RUS, Simona Halep/ROU (co-PoW)
2016 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2017 Karolina Pliskova, CZE
2018 Simona Halep, ROU
2019 Julia Goerges, GER
2020 Serena Williams, USA
2021 Aryna Sabalenka, BLR

**CAREER WEEK 1 TITLES - active**
3...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
3...Serena Williams, USA
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...ARYNA SABALENKA, BLR
2...Venus Williams, USA
1...Ekaterina Alexandrova, RUS
1...Kim Clijsters, BEL
1...Lauren Davis, USA
1...Simona Halep, ROU
1...Kaia Kanepi, EST
1...Petra Kvitova, CZE
1...Katerina Siniakova, CZE
1...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
1...Sloane Stephens, USA
1...Elina Svitolina, UKR
1...Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
--
ALSO: Jankovic (1)

**2019-21 HARD COURT TITLES**
7 - ARYNA SABALENKA, BLR (3/3/1)
4 - Sofia Kenin, USA (2/2/0)
4 - Naomi Osaka, JPN (3/1/0)
3 - Bianca Andreescu, CAN (3/0/0)
3 - Ash Bartty, AUS (2/1/0)
3 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (2/1/0)

**MOST WTA FINALS, 2018-21**
12 - 4/4/3/1 = ARYNA SABALENKA (9-3)
12 - 6/3/3/0 = Simona Halep (7-5)
10 - 3/6/1/0 = Ash Barty (7-3)
10 - 5/4/1/0 = Petra Kvitova (7-3)
10 - 3/5/2/0 = Karolina Pliskova (7-3)
10 - 4/5/1/0 = Kiki Bertens (6-4)

**MOST WTA SF, 2020-21**
6 - 5/1 = ARYNA SABALENKA (4-2)
5 - 5/0 = Elena Rybakina (5-0)
4 - 4/0 = Simona Halep (3-1)
4 - 4/0 = Jennifer Brady (1-3)

**MOST 2019-21 WD TITLES - DUOS**
8...Hsieh/Strycova, TPE/CZE (4/4/0)
5...Babos/Mladenovic, HUN/FRA (3/2/0)
4...AOYAMA/SHIBAHARA, JPN/JPN (2/1/1)
4...Chan/Chan, TPE/TPE (4/0/0)
4...Mertens/Sabalenka, BEL/BLR (3/1/0)
3...Krejcikova/Siniakova, CZE/CZE (2/1/0)
3...Melichar/Peschke, USA/CZE (3/0/0)

**MOST WTA DOUBLES FINALS - DUOS, 2020-21**
5 - 5/0...Hsieh/Strycova (4-1)
3 - 2/1...CARTER/STEFANI (1-2)
3 - 3/0...Melichar/Xu (1-2)
2 - 1/1...AOYAMA/SHIBAHARA (2-0)
2 - 2/0...Babos/Mladenovic (2-0)
2 - 2/0...Rus/Zidansek (2-0)
2 - 2/0...K.Bondarenko/Fichman (1-1)
2 - 2/0...Guarachi/Krawczyk (1-1)

**MOST 2019-21 WD TITLES - INDIVIDUALS**
8- Hsieh Su-wei, TPE (4/4/0)
8- Barbora Strycova, CZE (4/4/0)
5- SHUKO AOYAMA, JPN (3/1/1)
5- Timea Babos, HUN (3/2/0)
5- Nicole Melichar, USA (3/2/0)
5- Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (3/2/0)
4- Chan Hao-ching, TPE (4/0/0)
4- Latisha Chan, TPE (4/0/0)
4- Elise Mertens, BEL (3/1/0)
4- Kveta Peschke, CZE (3/1/0)
4- Aryna Sabalenka, BLR (3/1/0)
4- ENA SHIBAHARA, JPN (2/1/1)
4- Katerina Siniakova, CZE (3/1/0)








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Remain vigilent.
All for now.

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