WTA Abu Dhabi – Three Matches To Watch in the UAE

Garbine Muguruza in action ahead of the WTA Abu Dhabi Open.

Day two in a tennis week that is flooded with tournaments commences tomorrow. Much of the focus will understandably be on the WTA 500 Abu Dhabi Open where are number of the biggest stars in the women’s game are competing. Amongst those in action are two former-world #1s in Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova, as well as one-time US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez. LWOT have a look at some of the bigger matches of the day: 

Shelby Rogers v Leylah Fernandez

Former US Open runner-up Fernandez will have her work cut out against Shelby Rogers. Rogers’ CV may not quite match up with Fernandez’s, but she is a solid player who can cause anyone problems on her day with two quarterfinal showings at the Majors. Still to beat Fernandez, she’ll need her A-game. The Canadian didn’t drop a set in qualifying and had looked good Down Under only to run into Caroline Garcia in the second round.

While getting back to the very top of the game doesn’t look likely for Fernandez (that will wait till 2024), expect some steady progress this season. Since that US Open runners-up finish, where she fell short against Radacanu, she has mostly played better tennis than the Brit and, at the age of 20, time is still very much on her side.

Paula Badosa v Liudmila Samsonova

Paula Badosa. She is just so impressive. A Grand Slam title has eluded her so far, but she is very much one of the WTA’s elite. It was a real pity that she missed the Australian Open. She would have added to the spectacle in Melbourne and it would have been no surprise to see her go deep into the second week.

Unfortunately, it was not the only recent disappointment suffered by the Spaniard. In fact, the second half of 2022 was a major disappointment and the same injury issues that affected her last season have continued so far this year. As a result, she has fallen from her career-high of world #2 to her current position of 21st in the WTA rankings.

On the bright side, however, she doesn’t have that many points to defend. Standing in her way here at the WTA Abu Dhabi Open is Liudmila Samsonava. But this might just be a good time to play the Russian. The world #19 put in a miserable performance in losing 3-6 0-6 to Donna Vekic at the Australian Open in the second round. Badosa, in contrast, has not actually lost a match so far this year.

Karolina Pliskova v Gabrine Muguruza

Two really odd players right now. Since winning that WTA Finals title in 2021, Muguruza’s form has fallen off a cliff. And the Spaniard hasn’t just been losing. She’s been losing badly. Particularly troubling has been a series of defeats from seemingly impregnable positions. Muguruza does have a lot of experience behind her, but the mental baggage is surely piling up right now.

As a consequence of a winless run stretching back to October, she sits at a lowly world #83. Still, there are reasons to be confident in her chances here. Pliskova herself can be a bit of a strange animal at times. Her quarterfinal run to the Australian Open was impressive, but it would not be a massive surprise to her beaten here. Equally though, she has won nine of her 11 matches against Pliskova.

Main photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports