Fixture: (4) Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova
Date: 13 January 2021
Tournament: Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open 2021
Venue: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Category: WTA 500
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $565,530
Match timing: 1.30 pm local time, 3 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova preview
Sabalenka ticked off all the boxes in a devastating semifinal display against the dangerous Maria Sakkari. The World No. 10 served eight aces and won 83% of her first-serve points to cruise to a 6-3, 6-2 victory. She also produced 22 winners against a paltry eight unforced errors, making it the cleanest match she has played all week.
After losing a set against World No. 19 Elena Rybakina a day earlier, this was a highly impressive turnaround. Sabalenka broke the Sakkari serve four times on her way to notching up her 14th consecutive WTA win.
The Ostrava and Linz champion has dropped only one set all week, and has notched up commanding wins over Polona Hercog and Ons Jabeur in additdion to beating Rybakina and Sakkari. She will look to cap her spectacular week by capturing the trophy on Wednesday, which would be perfect preparation for the Australian Open starting next month.
Veronika Kudermetova meanwhile has broken new ground at Abu Dhabi by making it to her maiden WTA final, after suffering losses in her last four semifinals at this level. The Russian converted five of her nine break-point opportunities to halt the spirited run of rising star Marta Kostyuk on Tuesday.
In a break-fest that lasted 1 hour 43 minutes, Kudermetova edged the Ukrainian teenager 7-6(8), 6-4.
Kudermetova had come into this match on the back of a gritty three-set upset over second seed Elina Svitolina, but refused to show any signs of fatigue. The 23-year-old has put together some confidence-boosting performances in Abu Dhabi, including a win over 10th seed Anett Kontaveit in the opener.
She would be hoping to bring that same form into the summit clash as she takes on the seemingly unstoppable Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka leads Veronika Kudermetova 1-0 in the head-to-head record, having won their solitary face-off at Antalya in 2015. Sabalenka pummeled the Russian 6-3, 6-3 in that match en route to reaching the pre-quarterfinals.
More recently, Sabalenka has twice met Kudermetova in doubles, and has won both times.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova prediction
Aryna Sabalenka and Veronika Kudermetova have a similar style of play, based on flat and powerful groundstrokes. But while aggression is the foundation of their game, keeping the ball within the court has been a challenge at times for both.
Sabalenka is not considered to be one of the cleanest of hitters around, and she tends to commit a few too many unforced errors. Even though she didn't drop a set in her first couple of rounds, she did fall behind early due to her profligacy.
But the Belarusian has been able to control her aggression much better in the last three sets she has played, dropping just eight games in those. That is an encouraging sign ahead of the final.
Veronika Kudermetova meanwhile has been serving brilliantly all through her campaign. The Russian has so far produced 33 aces, with a majority of them coming against Paula Badosa and Elina Svitolina.
That said, Kudermetova has spent over six hours on the court in her last three matches, with her pre-quarterfinal and quarterfinal both going the distance. Tiredness could very well creep in, and Sabalenka wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of that.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.Published 12 Jan 2021, 20:46 IST