Date: 20 October 2021
Tournament: VTB Kremlin Cup
Round: Second round (Round of 16)
Venue: Moscow, Russia
Category: WTA 500
Prize money: $565,530
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Aryna Sabalenka vs Ajla Tomljanovic preview
After an opening-round bye, top seed Aryna Sabalenka will kick off her campaign in Moscow against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
Sabalenka, who had to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open due to COVID-19, is set to play her first match since the US Open. The Belarusian, who had cemented her status as one of the best players on the tour the last couple of years, has taken her game to a whole new level this season.
Sabalenka made her first Slam semifinal at this year's Wimbledon and followed up with a last-four showing at the US Open. She also won two titles, including the WTA 1000 event in Madrid, reached a career-high ranking of World No. 2 and clinched a spot in the WTA Finals for the first time in her career.
Sabalenka enjoyed plenty of success in doubles too. She won her second Grand Slam at the Australian Open and reached the summit of the rankings, before opting to spend less time on the doubles court in order to focus on singles.
Ajla Tomjlanovic, meanwhile, has had a decent season, reaching the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon. She has also posted some big wins over quality players like Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko this year.
The Australian performed well in Indian Wells last week, reaching the fourth round, where she lost to Angelique Kerber.
Tomljanovic made a good start to her campaign at the Kremlin Open, defeating Liudmila Samsonova 6-2, 6-4 to progress to the second round.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Ajla Tomljanovic head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka and Ajla Tomljanovic have played each other four times before, and their head-to-head currently stands at 3-1 in favor of the Belarusian. Sabalenka won their most recent encounter at the Abu Dhabi Open this year in straight sets.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Ajla Tomljanovic prediction
Considering that Aryna Sabalenka has only just recovered from COVID and will be playing her first match in a while, there's a possibility of Tomljanovic securing an upset. Having said that, if Sabalenka is fully fit, she should be able to overpower the Australian.
The 23-year-old has a big serve and powerful groundstrokes and can take the racket out of the hands of any opponent she faces. Tomljanovic is a big hitter herself, but getting the better of Sabalenka in baseline exchanges will not be easy.
The Belarusian is also the better server of the two and her doubles experience has made her proficient at the net. The outcome of this match will ultimately hinge on Sabalenka's physical state. If she's fully fit, the Belarusian should be able to advance to the next round.
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Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in three sets.