Day two of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open featured 20 first-round singles and four first-round doubles matches on the WTA Tour's first stop of the year.
Kenin, Svitolina off to winning starts in 2021
Kenin struggled with world number 789 Zhaoxuan Yang, needing a first set tiebreaker before pulling away for a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory. The American failed to convert on five break points in the opening point, but won all but one of Yang's service points in the breaker.
34 points were played in the first two games of the second set and Kenin eventually emerged with a lead and she cruised through the remainder of the set to pick up her initial win of the season.
Svitolina never dropped serve en route to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Jessica Pegula while breaking the American three times in the 80-minute contest. The Ukrainian fired off 17 winners as she next faces Vera Zvonareva.
"I really, really enjoyed being out there", she said after the match. "The conditions were not easy today, with the wind going around the court and changing all the time, so I tried to stay focused on what I had to do on court.
"[There are] still a few things that I have to improve for the next match and to try to get better, but for the start, I think it definitely was a good match."
Muguruza, Pliskova advance to second round
Muguruza opened her 2021 season with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Kristina Mladenovic, evening her head-to-head with the Frenchwoman at two wins apiece.
Mladenovic was quick out of the box, winning the first two games before the Spaniard roared back to claim the last six games of the set. The Frenchwoman broke for a 4-3 lead in the second set only to watch Muguruza again finish strong, winning the final three games of the match.
"I felt like I started by getting used to the wind and the court, so I started a little bit not hitting the ball properly, moving a little bit weird, getting my feet together.
"[Mladenovic] played well, she took the advantage, and then I started to feel a little bit better, and I turned the score around. I was trying to do my game, dominating, not letting her dominate the point."
Pliskova was scheduled to play Sorana Cirstea, but the Romanian withdrew due to an abdominal injury, so Despina Papamichail gained the lucky loser spot in her place and put up a good fight before the Czech prevailed 6-2, 7-6 (4).
The third seed broke in the fourth game of the match and after the Greek settled down, Pliskova broke again to close out the first set. After failing to serve out the match, the set went to a tiebreaker where the Czech closed it out on her third attempt.
"Of course, I prepared for something, but I still had a couple of hours to change my feeling about the match", she said about facing Papamichail on such short notice. "No matter who was there, I wanted to play the best I can.
"I thought the first set was quite OK", she continued. "Definitely I could do better at the end of the second set, when I was serving for the match, but I didn't quite make it. But also credit to the opponent, she tried to make it a little bit difficult."
Sabalenka, Rybakina, Muchova straight sets winners; Vondrousova, Brady upset
Eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova was one of two seeded players upset as the Czech feel to Su-wei Hsieh 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3). 11th seed Jennifer Brady was the other as Tamara Zidansek came from behind to beat the American 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka got past Polona Hercog 7-6 (4), 6-2, sixth seed Elena Rybakina crushed Lucrizia Stefanini 6-1, 6-2 and 12th seed Karolina Muchova rounded out the list of seeded winners with an easy 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Danka Kovinic.
Heather Watson won the all-British battle against Jodie Burrage 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, Kateryna Bondarenko edged Yafan Wang 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and Xiyu Wang won the final three-setter over Arantxa Rus 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.