Sofia Kenin makes the French Open final
Sofia Kenin will be in action in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Top-seed and Australian Open defending champion Sofia Kenin will meet one of the eight qualifiers, while former French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova is the only player to withdraw as the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open is all set to kick-off on Tuesday.

American Kenin, who battled over three sets against Garbine Muguruza to clinch her first Major at the Melbourne Park last year, is the top seed at the inaugural edition of this WTA 500 tournament that will be played at Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre.

With the top three-ranked women – Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka – all skipping this competition, the mantle of the top seed fell on World No.4 Kenin, while No.5 Elina Svitolina will make her debut as the second seed in the UAE Capital against American Jessica Pegula.

Kenin may set a re-match against Muguruza in the quarter-finals, while at the lower end of the draw Svitolina may run into Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the last eight stages, after which she may have to contend against third-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the last four.

Pliskova will open her tournament against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, while fourth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka will be up against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

The main draw had to be tweaked a bit late on Monday following the withdrawal due to illness of 14th seed Anisimova, the third-youngest player ranked in the top-100 on the WTA.

Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova will take the place vacated by Anisimova as the next seeded player and begin her campaign against Kazkhstan’s Zarina Diyas. Also entering the draw is Ulrikke Eikeri as the next player eligible to move in.

Meanwhile, Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez will be one of the many upcoming stars on offer in the main singles draw as she meets Italian Jasmine Paolini. Fernandez, whose latest exploit was at the 2020 French Open where the 18-year-old stretched seventh seed Petra Kvitova in their third round encounter, has been admitted into the main draw as a replacement for China’s Zheng Saisai, one of the early withdrawals.

2020 runner-up at the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open Elena Rybakina is the sixth seed and will start her campaign against a qualifier.

The singles qualifiers will get underway at the Zayed Sports City tennis centre from 10 am on Tuesday. A total of eight players will make it through to the main draw after two days of qualifying.