With the last few stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Open left, the excitement levels are at the peak. Up next, Maria Sakkari will lock horns against Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals of the WTA 500 tournament. Sakkari has been in imperious form during the week, having beaten the likes of Coco Gauff, Garbine Muguruza, and Sofia Kenin en route to the semifinal.
The Greek bagel’d her quarterfinal opponent Kenin in the third set and registered her first career win over Kenin. Seeded No.9, Sakkari hammered nine aces and 23 winners in the quarterfinals to advance to the penultimate stage.
On the other hand, Sabalenka has been in prime form and is on a 13 match winning streak. Sabalenka outlasted No.6 seed Elena Rybakina in a grueling three-set quarterfinal and is a win away from reaching her third consecutive final. Last year, Sabalenka finished the season by winning two back-to-back titles at the Ostrava and Linz Open.
The duo has played four times against each other, with Sabalenka leading the rivalry 3-1. The duo last faced off at the Round-of-16 at Doha last year, where Sabalenka demolished Sakkari in straight sets.
The sole victory of Sakkari came at Round-of-16 of the 2019 Cincinnati Masters when she defeated Sabalenka in an epic three-set match.
Coming into the match, Sakkari will have to serve impeccably well to neutralize the effect of Sabalenka’s returns. Sakkari will have to play aggressively from the baseline, otherwise, Sabalenka will sway the match towards her side. With the quick courts favoring Sakkari’s game style, she should look to come to the net more often to shorten the points.
The hard-hitting Sabalenka has already beaten Sakkari twice last year and has the ability to break her opponent’s defense with her blistering groundstrokes. The No.4 seed will face a tough challenge from Sakkari but will most likely reach the final.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in three sets.