The inaugural WTA Abu Dhabi Open has provided plenty of entertainment so far and that looks set to continue on finals day. Both Aryna Sabalenka and Veronika Kudermetova will surely be determined to get their hands on the WTA 500 trophy and make the perfect start to their 2021 season. But who will claim the title in the United Arab Emirates?
WTA Abu Dhabi Open Final Prediction
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova
Head-to-head: Sabalenka 1-0 Kudermetova
2020 was a largely disappointing year for Sabalenka, particularly at the Majors. Her best effort was a run to the third round at the French Open, which followed a first-round exit at the Australian Open and a defeat in the second round in New York. However, the Belarusian managed to end the year on a high note, putting together a nine-match winning streak to lift back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz to close the year.
She has managed to maintain that impressive form so far in 2021. She began her campaign at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open with an accomplished 7-6 6-2 win over the veteran Polona Hercog and she backed that up by getting the better of Ajla Tomljanovic, also in straight sets. That saw her into the round of 16, where she dismissed Ons Jabeur, losing only six games as she avenged the defeat she suffered at the Tunisian’s hands at Roland Garros last season.
In the quarterfinals, Sabalenka was given a stern examination by Elena Rybakina, with the Kazakh almost able to match her blow for blow, but Sabalenka hung tough to dig out a 6-4 4-6 6-3 win. That set up a semifinal clash with the in-form Maria Sakkari, who had upset Garbine Muguruza and Sofia Kenin earlier in the week. But the Greek had no answer for Sabalenka’s power, with the fourth seed sweeping her opponent aside to win 6-3 6-2 and book her place in the final.
Kudermetova, meanwhile, arrived at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open having never previously reached a tour-level final. But she made lightwork of a tough first-round draw in the shape of Anett Kontaveit, upsetting the tenth seeded Estonian 7-5 6-1, and she continued to impress thereafter. In the second round, Kudermetova outclassed Italy’s Bianca Turatti to score a 6-2 6-1 win before finishing strongly to claim a 6-4 4-6 6-1 win over Paula Badosa Gibert in the round of 16.
Still, few would have expected the 23-year-old to get the better of second seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals, particularly after losing the first set, but that is exactly what Kudermetova did, as she ousted the Ukrainian in a third-set tiebreak to claim what is surely amongst the best wins of her career. Kudermetova then secured her place in the final by beating Ukrainian young gun Marta Kostyuk in straight sets in the semifinals.
However, although she has excelled this week, it is hard to see Kudermetova ending the WTA Abu Dhabi Open in possession of her first title. The strengths that have served her well this week, namely her court-coverage and accuracy from the back of the court, may not stand her in such good stead against Sabalenka. The Belarusian, when she is at her best, has the power to hit through just about any opponent and Kudermetova may well struggle to throw back enough counter-punches to knock Sabalenka out of her stride.
Prediction: Sabalenka in 2
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