The first day of main draw action at the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships also brings with it some top final round qualifying matches.
We give our thoughts on four of the best matches. Also find our predictions for four other matches, including Kim Clijsters vs Garbine Muguruza.
WTA Dubai Day 1 Predictions
Su-Wei Hsieh vs Jennifer Brady
Head-to-Head Record: Hsieh 1-0 Brady
This is possibly the trickiest match to call out of all of the matches on Day 1. Hsieh beat Brady in Cincinnati last year but that was a very close match.
Brady is the player with the statistical edge. She has won 69% of her hard court matches in the last year, compared to Hsieh Su-Wei’s 56%. The difference in their games comes mainly from the service line as Brady has held serve 75% of the time, much better than 63.5% from the Taiwanese.
I am going to back Brady to tough this one out and make a valuable main draw appearance. Hsieh may be able to outfox her but the match will lie on Brady’s racket and she has enough confidence at the moment to relish that and find the shots required to win.
Prediction: Brady in 3
Veronika Kudermetova vs Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Head-to-Head Record: First meeting
Mattek-Sands is not finding qualifying for main tour events very easy. Since returning to singles action from her long injury break the American has not managed to make the main draw without the use of a wildcard. A good win over Kirsten Flipkens in the previous round will give her hope that today will be the day.
Kudermetova usually has none of those problems. Her ranking has been steadily improving over the year and is now down inside the top 40. The Russian is tall and uses her height to produce a difficult serve to return.
As much as it would be great to see Mattek-Sands back in the main draw of a WTA Premier event I think that Kudermetova may just have too much power and run out a straight-sets winner in this match.
Prediction: Kudermetova in 2
Marketa Vondrousova vs Anastasija Sevastova
Head-to-Head Record: Vondrousova 1-0 Sevastova
This is a huge match for Anastasija Sevastova. The Latvian has endured an exceptionally poor run of form on tour. She has lost seven of her last eight matches on tour, some of them very heavily. However, in her last match before this tournament, she defeated Serena Williams in a third set tiebreak to win a rubber for Latvia in the Fed Cup. Though Latvia eventually lost the tie in the doubles that match against Williams was vital to keep Latvia in it. If Sevastova can’t take inspiration and confidence from that then it could be a massive issue.
The rest of the cards are stacked against the Latvian though. Vondrousova thrashed her at the French Open last year in their only encounter. Even though it was on clay the young Czech clearly found holes in Sevastova’s game to keep going through. Vondrousova isn’t in the greatest form herself but still has by far the superior numbers heading into this clash.
Sevastova has won only four hard court matches from 16 in the last twelve months, compared to Vondrousova’s ten from fourteen. The Czech’s service and return numbers are better by a wide margin than the Latvian’s. On this basis siding with Vondorusova seems the only sensible course of action. Expect Czech progress in this match.
Prediction: Vondrousova in 2
Alison Riske vs Ons Jabeur
Head-to-Head Record: Riske 1-0 Jabeur
What a fantastic piece of wildcard-ing (yes, that’s a made-up word) by the Dubai organisers. Yes, Ons Jabeur is Tunisian, but her run to the Australian Open quarterfinals surely did wonders for the whole Arabic community. She has the potential to be a real trailblazer for women’s sport in this region and it is fitting that she will get to play on this stage.
It will be a tough task against Riske though. For years thought of as a grass court specialist, her numbers on hard courts have improved markedly in the last year or so. Compared to Jabeur the American has held serve more often and broken her opponents more often on hard courts in the last twelve months. But there isn’t a great deal in it.
If Jabeur is able to carry her form from Australia into this tournament then anything is possible. Riske herself isn’t in bad form, she has only lost to Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova in 2020. On the balance of play and historic precedent, Riske should win this match. It may be tight but her attacking play could force too much movement from Jabeur so won’t have the time to create those fantastic touch shots and angles.
Prediction: Riske in 3
Main Photo from Getty.
Disagree with our WTA Dubai Day 1 Predictions? As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.