There will be plenty of intriguing matches on Day 2 of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. As always at LWOT, we will predict all 17 matches on the slate for Monday, including Garbine Muguruza vs Irina-Camelia Begu, Fiona Ferro vs Elise Mertens and Angelique Kerber vs Caroline Garcia. But who will advance?
WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Day 2 Predictions
Elena Rybakina vs Saisai Zheng
Head-to-head: Rybakina 1-0 Zheng
This match is on Elena Rybakina’s racket, but the big question is whether she has shaken off the cobwebs that seemed to envelope her game Down Under. Rybakina looked a shadow of the player that reached the quarterfinals in Abu Dhabi. And last week in Doha, she looked lethargic in a straight sets defeat to Laura Siegemund. But Rybakina has plenty of good memories to draw upon as she returns to the scene of her finalist showing in 2020. She opens up against world #4848 Saisai Zheng. In terms of match wins in 2021, Zheng is close to bankrupt. The Chinese woman has five first round defeats this year, and it is tough to see her changing her fortunes here against the Kazakh.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2
Jessica Pegula vs Yaroslava Shvedova
Head-to-head: Pegula 0-1 Shvedova
Pegula is building on a tremendous start to the season. After a maiden quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, she has maintained that fantastic run of form on other side of the continent. She reached the semifinals in Doha last week, further highlighting her immense hardcourt prowess. The general perception is starting to change for Jessica Pegula as far as her name is concerned. Pegula is a household name in the States, and it irks the 27-year-old Buffalo native when she is referred to as the billionaire daughter and not the tennis player. She has nailed a spot in the main draw this week in Dubai with a top 40 debut.
Pegula has a very straightforward opener, at least on paper against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan. Shvedova has been ranked as high as 25th in the world, but that was nearly nine years ago. Now 33, she enters this tournament with a protected ranking, benefitting from the revised WTA rules that allows returning mothers to use their original ranking before maternity leave. But this is a big ask for Shvedova to get anything here. Pegula looks a solid pick to advance.
Prediction: Pegula in 2
Petra Martic vs Kristina Mladenovic
Head-to-head: Martic 5-1 Mladenovic
This is a terrible matchup for Kristina Mladenovic. Bar the Istanbul quarterfinal in 2019, in which both players pushed each other to their absolute limits in one of the longest WTA matches in recent seasons, Petra Martic has posted some comprehensive wins each time they played thereafter. The jury is still on Mladenovic on whether time is running out in an effort to rekindle her career. But I actually fancy her chances here. This is a period of vulnerability for Martic. Historically, the Croat has always been a slow starter in the first quarter of the year. And the courts in Dubai this year play extremely fast, taking time away from the 13th-seeded Martic to unleash her heavy groundstrokes. Mladenovic should be poised to turn her poor record on the back of a very productive week in Lyon.
Prediction: Mladenovic in 3
Shelby Rogers vs Kaia Kanepi
Head-to-head: Rogers 0-1 Kanepi
Shelby Rogers was one of a handful of American players that performed with distinction during the one-month stay in Melbourne. Rogers arrives in Dubai with a top 50 ranking (world #49, one spot from her career-high), and emboldens the view that she could be one of the players to watch for the remainder of the season. But she has been handed a tricky opener against the qualifier Kaia Kanepi. Nothing seems to faze Estonian when she finds her range. Kanepi has recorded some major scalps this year, and I am backing her to post another on Monday.
Predictions: Kanepi in 3
Main Photo from Getty.