WTA Abu Dhabi Day 1 wrapup: Sakkari, Putintseva, Jabeur advance; Kontaveit, Vekic upset
Photo: WTA Tour

The opening day of the 2021 WTA Tour season got underway with the start of the inaugural Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open as 12 first-round matches were played. 

Among the players advancing were ninth seed Maria Sakkari, 13th seed Yulia Putintseva, 15th seed Ons Jabeur and 17th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova while tenth seed Anett Kontaveit and 16th seed Donna Vekic were upset victims.

Sakkari, Jabeur post solid victories to advance

Sakkari got her season off to the best possible start, defeating Anastasia Potapova 6-4, 6-2 in an hour, 26 minutes. Never dropping serve, the Greek star hit 18 winners while watching the 101st-ranked Russian commit 23 unforced errors.

An early break in the third game of the match after Potapova fired consecutive backhand errors was all Sakkari needed and after a pair of breaks in the second set, the ninth seed booked her spot in round two.

"I worked a lot on my serve in, let's say, the last nine months", she said in her post-match press conference. It's going really well, I have to say. I'm super pleased with the way i'm serving. I'm getting good results inside the court from my serve."

Jabeur fought past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (3), 6-3 in what was the highlight first-round match. After trading breaks midway through the first set, the Tunisian saved two set points trailing 5-4 and when the set went to a tiebreaker, it was the 15th seed who came out on top.

Full of confidence, Jabeur was playing at an extremely high level to attain a 5-1 lead only to falter for the first time, double-faulting on break point to hand one of the breaks back. Two games later, she would close out the victory when Pavlyuchenkova committed a final error.

Jabeur reaches for a forehand during her first-round victory/Photo: Jimmie48/WTA Tour
Jabeur reaches for a forehand during her first-round victory/Photo: Jimmie48/WTA Tour

"To be honest, it was a good one for me", she assessed after the win. It was a tough match, not an easy first round or first match, but I went there with the spirit like 'i'm not afraid, i'm just going to go in and give it my all."

Kudermetova, Pera cause first-day upsets

Veronika Kudermetova sent Kontaveit packing, dealing the 10th-seeded Estonian a 7-5, 6-1 defeat. Kontaveit managed to keep the first set close despite being treated for a blister in the third game, but from 5-5, watched the Russian reel off eight of the final nine games.

In a topsy-turvy affair, Bernarda Pera ousted Vekic 7-6 (10), 2-6, 6-4. The American rallied from 5-3 down to win a marathon tiebreaker while Vekic struck back with a dominant second set before Pera again came from behind in the decider.

Other results from Day 1

Putintseva comfortably advanced with a routine 6-3, 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan while Alexandrova eased past Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-4. Barbora Krejcikova will be Putintseva's second round opponent after knocking out Jamie Loeb 6-1, 6-3.

Three-set winners were Paula Badosa, who overcame Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, Kirsten Flipkens, who survived against Laura Siegemund 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 in three hours, four minutes and Daria Kasatkina, who beat Qiang Wang 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Lin Zhu 6-2, 7-6 (1) while Leylah Annie Fernandez had no problem with Jasmin Paolini, winning 6-4, 6-2.