World number four and top seed Sofia Kenin will be up against China’s Zhaoxuan Yang in what could be one of the biggest mismatches of the tournament. This first round match at the 2021 WTA Abu Dhabi will be played on Thursday, January 7, and will begin at around 2 pm local time (10 am BST or 4 am Eastern Time). Get the live streaming options of this Sofia Kenin v Zhaoxuan Yang match along with its preview, head to head, and tips here.
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Sofia Kenin v Zhaoxuan Yang Head to Head
Interestingly, there has been one previous encounter between the two of them and it came in Wuhan at the qualifiers. Kenin had won that one easily to progress to the main draw and later won a couple of rounds before going down to Aryna Sabalenka in the third.
Kenin’s Marvellous Growth Has More Room
Speaking of the Wuhan Open in 2018, the tournament in which Kenin needed to feature in the qualifiers, beat her opponent from this match and make the main draw, the American was ranked outside the top 50 by the time her campaign in that competition was done.
Fast forward a year and a half, Kenin had won her first major, defeating Garbine Muguruza in the final of the Australian Open. Move forward a few more months and the American had reached the final of another Grand Slam, this time on the clay of Roland-Garros before she went down to teenager Iga Swiatek.
She is now ranked fourth in the world and has already said she is working on her title defense at the Australian Open, which includes taking tips from the men’s world number one Novak Djokovic.
The season’s first major is still more than a month away but a strong showing in this WTA 500 tournament which has some of the biggest names in contemporary women’s tennis could go a long way in establishing that fear in the eyes of her opponents.
Yang More a Doubles Specialist
Yang was once a 151st ranked player on the tour, having won three singles titles on the ITF circuit between 2011 and 2014 but the Chinese player took to doubles after that and her singles play suffered as a result.
This is reflected in her ranking at the moment, a singles rank of 789th in the world as compared to 55th on the doubles charts. Which is why it’s equal parts shocking and commending, Yang has managed to make it to the main draw, defeating two players ranked in the top 300 in the qualifiers.
The only question then is whether Yang can take any kind of confidence from those qualifying wins and surprise Kenin – not in exact terms surprise to win, but surprise enough to grab an early break or push a set into a tie-breaker.
It would require a considerable effort.
Kenin v Zhaoxuan Prediction and Tip
Interestingly, despite the parity in the rankings, Yang is a mere 6/1 to win this when we would have expected something a lot more out of her win. Instead we are looking at a breezy win for the world number four.
Tip: Kenin to win in straight sets: 1/5 (bet365)