ABU DHABI, U.A.E -- On Day 2 of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open, the younger set made their mark on the outer courts to move four teenagers into the second round.
Leading the way was No.48 Coco Gauff, who opened her 2021 campaign with a 6-0, 6-1 win over No.260 Ulrikke Eikeri. The Norwegian gained entry into the main draw as an alternate when Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the tournament after the draw was made.
Playing in just her second WTA main draw match, Eikeri did well to keep Gauff guessing with her all-court game but the American showed no signs of any competitive rust. Six of the 13 games went to deuce and Gauff won all of them.
"She played really well," Gauff said after the match. "I know the score didn't look like it but it was a tricky match, tricky player. She had really good hands. She hit a lot of volley winners. I've never seen anyone drop-volley off some of the passes I hit. They were pretty good and she hit them like nothing."
Tuesday's windy conditions proved to be an equalizer throughout the day, as lower-ranked players enjoyed good success on Day 2. But Gauff credited her Florida upbringing for her ability to adjust.
"Me living Florida, it's super windy so I'm used to playing in weather like this," Gauff said. "It was just about adjusting to the ball and the first serve, playing aggressive. These courts are kind of fast so I knew if I could get the first two balls pretty deep in the court the point will open up for me."
Joining the American in the second round are Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk and China's Wang Xiyu. Canada's Leylah Fernandez booked her spot on Day 1 with a good win over Jasmine Paolini. Kostyuk posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka, her first WTA main draw win as a member of the Top 100.
19-year-old Wang Xiyu earned a big win over the Netherlands' Arantxa Rus, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. The win over the World No.74 was Wang's best since her run to the semifinals of the 2020 Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco last spring. It also avenged a loss from just a month ago at the ITF 100K in Dubai, where she lost to Rus in straight sets.
Ranked No.123, the 2019 US Open girls champion is aiming to break the Top 100 this season. Wang reached a career-high No.106 in March of last year before the tour shut down.
Hsieh Su-Wei scored a big win over No.8 seed Marketa Vondrousova, coming back from a break down in the final set to upsend the 2019 Roland Garros finalist 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in the first round. Hsieh could not recover from a 0-3 deficit in the first set, but an opening break in the first game of the second set settled her game.
Vondrousova kept the pressure on Hsieh's service games, but the World No.67 refused to relinquish her lead, fighting off two break points to hold to 3-1 and then another break point to lead 4-2.
"I was thinking it was a little bit a similar match as Roland Garros when in the second match I played against Iga [Swiatek]," Hsieh said after the match. "I was leading the second set 4-1 up, and I was leading here 4-3 up. I was thinking this is a very similar situation and I thought ok, this time I'm not letting you go."
Serving at 4-3, Hsieh played a perfect service game to hold at love and then broke Vondrousova for a third time in the set to take the match to a deciding set. This it was Vondrousova who broke first to 3-2 and the talented Czech would serve for the match at 5-4.
But a loose game from the Czech gave Hsieh an opportunity to turn the match around. The Chinese Taipei broke at 15 to get back on serve and eventually forced a deciding tiebreak, which she raced away with. Coming off a disappointing 2020 season in singles, the win marked Hsieh's best win since defeating then No.18 Caroline Wozniacki at the 2019 Dongfeng Wuhan Open.
Hsieh credited a refreshed body and mind for her ability to maintain focus through the end to earn the tough win. Asked how she spent her time off, Hsieh excitedly discussed her trips to various islands in Chinese Taipei that are home to the Green Sea Turtle.
"They are super friendly," Hsieh said. "You can swim with them. But you are not allowed to touch. If you touch, $10,000 for fine! So I went there and almost every beach we went we could see the green turtles. It was amazing."
Day 2 also saw two notable upsets over a pair of rising stars. 2020 Newcomer of the Year Nadia Podoroska bowed out to Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-3, 6-3. And in one of the most impressive performances of the day, Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek bounced back from an opening set bagel to unwind No.24 Jennifer Brady's power game, winning 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.
For a preview of the action on Day 3 in Abu Dhabi, click here.