The first WTA 1000 tournament of the season will kick-off at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. As part of the Middle Eastern swing, the event features three former champions. As always here at LWOT, we offer our predictions of all seven matches on day one, including Alize Cornet vs Daria Kasatkina in a separate article.
WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Day 1 Predictions
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Veronika Kudermetova
Head-to-head: Pavlyuchenkova 2-1 Kudermetova
This is an all-Russian affair and a fourth career meeting between 41st-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 34th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova. For the younger Russian, Kudermetova, she is looking to snap a three-match losing streak. After making a bright start to her 2021 campaign in which she reached the Abu Dhabi final in January, the 23-year-old hit a speed bump in Melbourne.
Pavlyuchenkova hasn’t fared any better, but she has had nightmare draws each week. Her five defeats this season have come against Ons Jabeur, Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza, a resurgent Kasatkina and newly crowned Doha champion Petra Kvitova. This is certainly a change for the former Dubai quarterfinalist. We expect a closely contested opening round between two players who are risk-tolerant from the baseline. But in terms of consistent hitting, Pavlyuchenkova slightly shades it and that should see her squeeze into the second round.
Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova in 3
Cori Gauff vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Head-to-head: first meeting
Ekaterina Alexandrova entered this week’s indoor tournament in Lyon on the back of a formidable record on the surface. She had won 36 of her past 44 matches dating back to October 2018, which is more than any other WTA player in that period. But she fell to a surprise first round defeat to Danish qualifier Clara Tauson. Can she avoid a second upset in as many days against another teenager in the form of Cori Gauff?
A meeting against a player 10 years her junior would seem like a stroll, but Gauff is an intimidating prospect when faced early doors. Alexandrova will trust her raw power to break down Gauff’s extraordinary defense – something that is becoming increasingly difficult even for established top 50 players. If the Russian is slow off the blocks early on, this could be another early exit in the offing.
Prediction: Gauff in 3
Anastasija Sevastova vs Bernarda Pera
Head-to-head: first meeting
Both Anastasija Sevastova and Bernarda Pera arrive in Dubai on the back of negative win-loss records. But the veteran Latvian had a more productive stay in Australia than her American opponent. Sevastova squandered match points in defeat to Jil Teichmann in Adelaide quarterfinals. The Dubai courts play similar to the Australian courts this year, and should suit Sevastova’s crafty game. Plus, the 30-year-old has warmed up nicely for this encounter with Pera after playing a much-better version of a left-hander in Teichmann. Expect Sevastova to advance.
Prediction: Sevastova in 2