Fixture: (4) Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog
Tournament: Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open
Round: Round of 64 (First round)
Venue: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Category: WTA 500
Prize money: $565,530
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog preview
World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka won three titles in the truncated 2020 season even though she wasn't the most consistent player. The Belarusian upset the eighth seed Petra Kvitova to taste title glory at Doha before the shutdown happened due to the pandemic.
The season restart did not prove to be kind to the former World No. 9 as she struggled to find her range. A quarter-final eluded her in the first three tournaments before she started showing sparks on the clay courts of Strasbourg en route to the semis.
But it was in the indoor hardcourt season that Aryna Sabalenka came alive. With wins over the in-form Jennifer Brady and Victoria Azarenka, the 22-year-old surged to the title in Ostrava. Sabalenka remained unstoppable in Linz to take the eighth title of her career and extend her winning streak to nine matches.
With such a blazing record, the Belarusian should relish the opportunity of playing her first-round opponent, Polona Hercog. The Slovenian's highest ranking has been only 35, which she achieved back in 2011. Currently perched at 49th, the claycourt specialist has three titles to show for, with the last one coming at Lugano in 2019.
Hercog made a solitary quarterfinal on the WTA Tour in 2020 and her best performance all year was at the 10,000K ITF event in Dubai. As a qualifier, she upset the seventh seed Arantxa Rus on her way to reaching the last four.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka and Polona Hercog have met twice with the head-to-head record currently tied at 1-1. The first meeting came on the clay courts of Lugano in 2018 where Sabalenka blew away Hercog 6-3, 6-1. At Istanbul the same year, Hercog avenged that loss with a 6-2, 7-5 upset of the eight-seeded Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog prediction
Much has happened since the last time Aryna Sabalenka and Polona Hercog faced off. The Belarusian has blossomed into one of the best young players on the tour and broke into the top 10 as well.
Sabalenka has one of the hardest-hitting games on the tour and flourishes on the fast hard courts. In contrast, the Slovenian prefers to build points by engaging her opponents in rallies.
With Sabalenka ending last year in such devastating form, Hercog isn't likely get much of a chance to play her game.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.Published 06 Jan 2021, 22:21 IST