WTA Abu Dhabi Open Day 2 Predictions Including Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog

Heather Watson in action ahead of the WTA Abu Dhabi Open

Professional tennis is back, with the season underway at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open in the United Arab Emirates. The tournament has attracted a strong field, with players looking to prepare for the Australian Open which begins next month in Melbourne. We here at LWOT will be offering our predictions for every match on the slate on day two, including  Tamara Zidansek vs Jennifer Brady, Elise Mertens vs Alize Cornet, Garbine Muguruza vs Kristina Mladenovic and Sorana Cirstea vs Karolina Pliskova. But who will book their place in the second round?

WTA Abu Dhabi Open Day Two Predictions

Aryna Sabalenka vs Polona Hercog

Head-to-head: Sabalenka 1-1 Hercog

One can never quite be sure which Aryna Sabalenka will turn up. At her best, the Belarusian’s combination of power and accuracy makes her almost unplayable, as she demonstrated by winning her last nine matches in 2020, claiming back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz. However, Sabalenka has struggled to perform consistently throughout her career, which will surely give Polona Hercog real encouragement heading into this match.

The Slovenian will struggle to match Sabalenka for power, but she is typically accurate from the baseline, with her forehand an effective weapon and her backhand slice often hard to read for her opponents. She certainly has the quality to take advantage if Sabalenka has a bad day at the office. But Sabalenka will not want for motivation in her first match of the season and if she plays anything like her best tennis, she should have enough to account for Hercog.

Prediction: Sabalenka in 3
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Jessica Pegula vs Elina Svitolina

Head-to-head: first meeting

2020 was an unmistakably disappointing season for Elina Svitolina. After reaching back-to-back semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019, Svitolina was surely hoping to make an impact at the Majors, but her best effort was a quarterfinal showing in Paris, where she lost to the qualifier Nadia Podoroska in straight-sets.

The Ukrainian did win titles in Monterrey and Strasbourg, and cannot be held accountable for the coronavirus pandemic which saw her miss Wimbledon and the US Open, the latter due to safety concerns, but she will surely have been hoping for more, despite finishing the year at world #5.

Jessica Pegula, meanwhile, played some fine tennis in 2020, most notably in reaching the final at the ASB Classic in Auckland and in Cincinnati where she reached the quarterfinals as a qualifier. However, the American also suffered a number of heavy defeats, including in her last match of 2020 which saw her lose 1-6 3-6 to Sabalenka in the first round at Roland Garros. And, in truth, there is little in her game to suggest she is on the cusp of regularly getting the better of the very best in the world.

That said, Pegula should be competitive against Svitolina, who lacks the power of the likes of Sabalenka, but this is a match the Ukrainian should be winning. There is not a great deal between them, but Svitolina is the better mover of the two and is that much more comfortable injecting pace into the ball, particularly off the forehand side.

Prediction: Svitolina in 3
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Marta Kostyuk vs Lucie Hradecka

Head-to-head: first meeting

This may not be one of the headline clashes on day two at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open, but it is one of the more interesting. Lucie Hradecka may be approaching the end of her career, but the Czech is an experienced and wily campaigner, with more variety at her disposal than most players thanks to her long and distinguished doubles career. Marta Kostyuk, in contrast, is still taking the first steps in a career that promises much and only played her first tour-level match in 2018.

Where Hradecka may have an advantage is in having played and won two rounds of qualifying, with the 25-year-old getting the better of fifth seed Andrea Lazaro Garcia and Carol Zhao to book her place in the main draw. But although Kostyuk has not played competitively since losing 1-6 1-6 in the quarterfinals at an ITF-event in Selva, Italy, in December, the Ukrainian is a cut above both Garcia and Zhao. Expect her to prove just about too strong for the veteran Hradecka.

Prediction: Kostyuk in 3
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Heather Watson vs Jodie Burrage

Head-to-head: first meeting

Heather Watson will surely head into this match with real confidence having dismissed her compatriot Jodie Burrage 6-1 6-4 at the Battle of the Brits less than a month ago. Of course, an exhibition, even one as competitive as the event put on by the LTA, does not entirely equate to a tour-level match, but that increased intensity may not help Burrage. The 21-year-old is, after all, far less experienced than Watson, who has won four WTA titles over the course of her career.

Burrage did look sharp in the first round of qualifying, beating Nadiia Kichenok, but she was then well-beaten by Amandine Hesse, with the Briton only reaching the main draw after being handed a reprieve as a lucky loser. Whilst it is far from unheard of for players to take advantage of such good fortune with a deep run, Burrage looked rather out of her depth against Watson during the Battle of the Brits and it would be a significant surprise were she able to muster more meaningful resistance at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open.

Prediction: Watson in 2

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