There was mixed fortune for the two youngest players in the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open main draw on Day 2. Zheng Qinwen powered past qualifier Rebecca Marino 6-3, 6-3, but Shelby Rogers took out Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Zheng was the first up of the 20-year-olds, and delivered a no-nonsense performance to defeat her Canadian opponent in 78 minutes, her third victory in as many meetings with Marino. The World No.29 was particularly dominant on serve: clean aces accounted for 10 of her 24 winners, and she dropped just three points behind her first delivery.
Zheng faced only one break point over the course of the match, at 4-2 in the second set. She staved it off with a fine forehand winner. In the second round, she will face No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko for the second time in the past seven months. Zheng upset the Latvian 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open last year.
Rogers and Fernandez were facing off for the fourth time, but first outside the U.S. Their pattern of tightly contested matches continued, though. The pair had split their two most recent meetings at Indian Wells in 2021 and 2022, both of which required a deciding set; that was the case again in Abu Dhabi, where Rogers and Fernandez had both come through qualifying.
Both players were committed to a strategy of quick, aggressive points, and the serve was paramount. This approach was executed better by Rogers, who won 81% of her first serve points compared to Fernandez's 65%, and 69% of her second serve points compared to the Canadian's 61%.
Fernandez did fire more winners, 29 to Rogers' 26, but her alacrity in trying to end points fast also saw the 2021 US Open finalist rack up 51 unforced errors. This was particularly the case in a one-sided third set: having held her nerve to edge the second set on a tiebreak, Fernandez could not rein Rogers in during the decider.
No.46-ranked Rogers improves to 3-1 over Fernandez, and will face No.7 seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round.
Two former Top 3 players withdrew from the tournament ahead of play. Wild card Garbiñe Muguruza, whose ranking has slipped to No.83, pulled out due to personal reasons, and is replaced by lucky loser Ysaline Bonaventure. Paula Badosa, who was unable to play the Australian Open due to an abductor injury, suffered further bad luck as an upper respiratory illness forced her to withdraw this week. She is replaced by lucky loser Claire Liu.