World number 10 Aryna Sabalenka will look to carry her form from the previous season into 2021 when she takes on Polona Hercog in her first round match at the WTA Abu Dhabi. The match is expected to be played on Thursday, January 7, and likely to begin at around 2:30 pm local time (10.30 am BST or 2:30 am Eastern Time). Get the live streaming options of this Aryna Sabalenka v Polona Hercog match along with its preview, head to head, and tips here.
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Aryna Sabalenka v Polona Hercog Head to Head
Both of their previous two outings have come on clay and the scoreline is tied at 1-1. The first meeting came at the Lugano Open in 2018 which led to an easy Sabalenka win before Hercog crushed her opponent in their second match at the Istanbul Open that very year.
Sabalenka on a Nine-Match Streak
Most players who managed to play in the second phase of the 2020 season, i.e. after tennis returned following the break in play due to the pandemic, struggled to get going. The lack of practice, the fears of contracting the virus and the life inside bio-secure bubbles didn’t make things easy for most.
And for a while it looked like Sabalenka was in a struggle as well.
Having begun the season with a title win at Doha earlier in February, she resumed her season with second round exits at the Lexington Open, Cincinnati Open and the US Open, before finally showing some of her previous form.
A semifinal at Strasbourg, on clay which isn’t her mot favourite surface would have turned things around, but a third round loss at the hands of Ons Jabeur followed soon after at Roland-Garros. Which is why when she entered the Ostrava Open, she wasn’t the biggest favourite.
Wins over Jennifer Brady and fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka saw her through to the title there and then she made it two in two by winning five more matches in a row at the Linz Open.
Can she now kick-start the season with an easy win?
Hercog Steady in the Rankings Despite Poor Season
Clay court specialist Hercog won her third and last title on the WTA circuit in 2019, propelling her from outside the top 90s in the world to 49 by year end. Interestingly, despite an underwhelming season in 2020, she finished it ranked 49th as well, fluctuating between a season-high of 43rd and a low of 52nd.
Her top performances came at the Australian Open and French Open where she won a match apiece while making it as far as the third round at the Italian Open.
Towards the end of the previous season, Hercog also participated at the Dubai ITF competition where she gained a semifinal spot before going down to Sorana Cirstea.
However, with a 30-43 win-loss record on hard court surface over the past five years, Hercog won’t be much of a favourite against an opponent who relishes this surface but can she put up some fight?
Sabalenka v Hercog Prediction and Tip
Sabalenka is 2/11 to win this encounter, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the disparity between the two but we could see Hercog make a fist of this especially if rustiness becomes a factor.
Tip: Over 19.5 games in the match: 5/6 (bet365)