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The WTA and ATP Tours are back this week, here’s our preview of all the action down in Antalya, Abu Dhabi, and Delray Beach.

The WTA and ATP will kick off their 2021 tennis seasons this week in Abu Dhabi, Antalya, and Delray Beach.

And there are some big names in attendance. 

Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin tops the card at the WTA500 event in Abu Dhabi, while Aussie fan favourite, Alex de Minaur will play at the ATP250 event in Antalya for the first time since November. 

Although odd to see these three tournaments kick off the 2021 tennis calendar, we’re excited to see who’ll be coming into form ahead of the Australian Open. 

Here’s our preview for each of the ATP and WTA tournaments this week. 

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WTA500 – Abu Dhabi 

Abu Dhabi will break the history books to become the first event to host a WTA Tournament under the WTA’s new naming. 

With $565,530USD on the table, 64 players will compete in a bid to get their seasons off to a flying start. 

And despite this being only a mid-level WTA500 event, its draw is littered with blockbuster names. 

The first is No.1 seed Sofia Kenin, who’s 2020 season finished back in September after being beaten in the finals at Roland Garros by 19-year-old Iga Swiatek. After three months away from tennis, we’re backing Kenin to smash her way to the finals this week. 

She’ll have several formidable obstacles in her way this week. One obstacle includes a potential rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. Both players are drawn to face off in the quarterfinals of the competition. But Muguruza will also have a tough road to get there herself. 

The Spaniard will start her 2021 season against Kristina Mladenovic, who will be no push over.

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Mladenovic had a successful 2020 on the doubles circuit, winning two grand slams at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. It’ll be an early test for the in-form Muguruza who hasn’t won a trophy since 2019. 

No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka also comes into the tournament after a bout of good form. Sabalenka secured big wins at the Linz Open and Ostrava, where she beat doubles partner Elise Mertens to claim her second title of the year. 

Not counting her doubles form, which is also very impressive, Sabalenka comes into the tournament on a 9-match winning streak. She’ll be a tough opponent to break down this week. 

Mertens heads up the 4th quarter of the tournament along with world no.5 Elina Svitolina. Svitolina claimed two championships in 2020 and is a big favourite to go deep into this tournament. 

First-round matches we’re keeping our eyes on

Muguruza vs. Mladenovic: Muguruza is a favourite to win, and could advance to play Aliaksandra Sasnonovich in the second round. 

Alexandrova vs. Diyas: The 2020 Shenzhen Open winner Alexandrova will be looking to get her season off to a belting start after crashing out of the semis at the Linz Open to Mertens. 

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Svitolina vs. Pegula: Keep an eye on rising star Jessica Pegula who could cause an upset here. Pegula had a breakthrough 2019, making the finals in Auckland and beating Sabalenka to make the quarters at the Cininnatti Masters.

Mertens vs. Cornet: With 11 singles titles between them, this could be one of the biggest bouts of the opening round. Mertens is the bookies favourite to win here, but she won’t find it easy against her experienced French opponent. 

What we’re predicting

With big players littered throughout the draw, expect some belting match-ups in the final round of 16 and quarters. 

21-year-old Elena Rybakina started her 2020 off to a flyer winning in Hobart last January. If Rybakina gets into top gear again in Abu Dhabi, she could face off against world No.10 Sabalenka in the quarterfinals of the tournament. This matchup could be epic. 

We also expect another big quarter-final at the bottom of the draw with Elise Mertens and Elina Svitolina likely to progress to the last eight. With Mertens having made multiple finals in 2020, and Svitolina having won in Monterrey and Strassbourg, it’s a tough tie to call. 

ATP250 – Antalya

This year’s Antalya Open takes a very stark look to its previous tournaments. The 2021 event has been fast-forwarded six months from its usual spot in June.

The tournament will also be played on hard blue courts instead of its usual grass surface. 

We’re expecting the Azzurri to strike hot this week, with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini looking both on the card for the ATP Tour’s curtain-raising event. 

After an injury-plagued season saw him miss out on most of 2020, Matteo Berrettini will be rearing to get 2021 off to a good start. He is ranked as the No.1 seed in Antalya and is the bookies favourite to win the tournament.

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Meanwhile, Fognini will be aiming to pick up his second title on the hard surface. The Italian has won eight of his nine singles titles on clay and is a hughe threat this week.

If both progress through the opening rounds, we could see them square off in an all Azzurri semi-final this weekend. 

Meanwhile, our very own Alex de Minaur will take to the court in Antalya ahead of the 2021 Australian Open. No.4 seed de Minaur recently affirmed he wants to start going deeper into tournaments.

But he’ll have a few obstacles in his way this week including Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, and World No.16 David Goffin in the quarter-finals.  

We’re still backing the young Australian’s tearing pace to help him reach the finals this week. A good run in Turkey will give him the momentum needed to advance deep into this February’s Australian Open. 

First-round matches we’re keeping our eyes on

De Minaur vs. Jaziri: De Minaur hasn’t played on tour since September, and we’re keen to see how he’s been working on his game over the off-season.

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ATP250 – Delray Beach

Players have been dropping like flies from the tournament. 

The list of withdrawals includes Australian Open wildcard holder, Andy Murray, Vasek Pospisil, and Milos Raonic. 

With all the absences, the field down in Florida has been left heavily populated by US players. 

But there are a few European names that stick out on that list. 

Britain’s Cameron Norrie could face off against No.3 seed Adrian Mannarino if he can make it past the first round. Mannarino has received a bye to the second round of the tournament, and the 2020 Monterrey finalist could cause a few upsets, after progressing deep into multiple tournaments last season. 

Favourite to win is 24-year-old Chilean Christian Garin, who claimed titles in Rio and Cordoba last year. 

But having not won on the hard surface yet, Garin could be targeted by American Sam Querry. Should the pair advance past the early stages, Querry could meet the Chilean in the semi-finals. 2016 Delray Beach champion, Querry would hold the upper hand here, having won eight out of his ten singles titles on the hard surface, he’ll be a tough opponent to beat. 

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Heading up the bottom of the draw is world No.25 John Isner. The American recently got into a storm on Twitter after voicing his opinion on COVID-19 mask requirements in the NFL. Isner will be looking to put his Twitter turmoils behind him and let his tennis do the talking this week. 

First-round matches we’re keeping our eyes on

McDonald vs. Querry: Querry suffered a lot of scrutiny at the end of his 2020 season, after breaching COVID-19 protocols at the St. Petersburg Open. Querry will be looking to put focus back to his tennis, and go deep into this week’s tournament.

Karlovic vs. Andujar: 2016 Delray Beach champion Ivo Karlovic is the oldest player in the tournament, but is one player who can cause a severe upset. Australian Open fans were stunned last year as Karlovic knocked out Pospisil in the first round of the grand slam. Expect him to kick his 2021 off in the same way. 

Featured Image: Garbine Muguruza by Kulitat is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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