ABU DHABI, U.A.E. -- 2020 Player of the Year Sofia Kenin will face a fierce field in the first week of the 2021 WTA season, as the draw for the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open was released on Monday evening.
Four of the Top 10 singles players in the WTA Rankings will line up to start the kick-off tournament for the season, a WTA 500 event on the hardcourts of the U.A.E. Qualifying play begins on Tuesday with main-draw action commencing on Wednesday.
Main Draw in Abu Dhabi, where Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, and Aryna Sabalenka are the top seeds.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 4, 2021
World No.4 Kenin, who claimed her first Grand Slam title one year ago at the Australian Open, was placed at the top of the draw as the No.1 seed. In her opening match, the 22-year-old American will meet one of the eight women who will make it through the qualifying draw over the next two days.
A rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final could be in the offing in the quarterfinals of the event, as No.5 seed Garbiñe Muguruza was drawn into the same quarter as Kenin. Before the former World No.1 can reach that stage, the Spaniard will meet Kristina Mladenovic in the first round, and could face No.9 seed Maria Sakkari or American teenager Coco Gauff in the round of 16.
The second quarter is headed by No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who had another stellar autumn on the WTA last year, clinching the year's last two singles titles in Ostrava and Linz. Sabalenka will face Slovenia’s Polona Hercog in the first round.
No.6 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan could be a quarterfinal foe for Sabalenka, while seeded players Karolina Muchova and Ons Jabeur and former Top 10 player Daria Kasatkina will also aim for big victories in that section of the top half of the draw.
Another former World No.1, Karolina Pliskova, leads her quarter as the bottom half of the draw takes shape. The No.3-seeded Czech, who will face Sorana Cirstea of Romania in her opener, has often fared exceptionally well at the outset of the tour calendar, winning at Brisbane during the opening week of the season in three of the last four years.
Pliskova’s countrywoman Marketa Vondrousova is the other Top 8 seed in the third quarter of the draw. The left-handed Czech, who reached the 2019 Roland Garros singles final, has a dangerous first-round tilt set up against the superb court craft of Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei.
2020 US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady, seeded 11th, is also in Vondrousova’s section of the draw, as are two rising teenagers who cracked the Top 100 for the first time last season, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez and Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.
At the very bottom of the table, No.2 seed Elina Svitolina anchors the draw. The World No.5 hopes to follow up a 2020 where she won two titles with an early trophy this year, and she will meet 2019 Citi Open champion Jessica Pegula of the United States in the first round. Either rising Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro or former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva awaits the winner.
No.7 seed Elise Mertens or No.10 seed Anett Kontaveit could be a potential quarterfinal opponent for any of those players. Mertens, in particular, has an intriguing opening-round encounter queued up against Alizé Cornet of France.