Veronika Kudermetova, of Russia, returns a shot from Elise Mertens, of Belgium, during the third round at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
- Sabalenka is the heavy favorite against Kudermetova. Should she be?
- The Belarussian is on a 14-match win streak going back to last October.
- Can Kudermetova win her first career WTA title? We break it down.
Aryna Sabalenka was among the favorites to win the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Open before the tournament began.
Veronika Kudermetova wasn’t even among the top 14 when we previewed the tournament a week ago.
The 23-year-old from Russia was overlooked. But when she’s motivated and in form she can get on a roll. And she knows how to beat top players.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova Odds
| Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)||-4.5 (-103)||-360||O 20.5 (-124)|
|Veronika Kudermetova (RUS)||+4.5 (-125)||+270||U 20.5 (-103)|
Odds taken Jan. 12 at DraftKings
Sabalenka Knows How to Win Titles
For a lot of reasons, Sabalenka is a big favorite in this match.
But it doesn’t come down to talent or firepower as much (both finalists have plenty of both) as it does the fact that she has demonstrated that when she gets deep into tournaments, she knows how to close it out.
The 23-year-old is on a 14-match winning streak.
She won the only two WTA tournaments played after the 2020 French Open, in Ostrava and Linz. And after a short off-season, she has picked up right where she left off.
Average Match Numbers Through Five Matches
|(Figure are per match)||Aryna Sabalenka||Veronika Kudermetova|
|Avg. ranking of opponent||38||103|
|No. of three-setters||1||2|
|Time on court||1h29||1h46|
|Break points saved||18/29 (62%)||20/32 (63%)|
|Break points converted||23/30 (77%)||25/49 (51%)|
|Avg. games played||21.4||23.6|
|No. of three-setters||1||2|
Sabalenka has eight titles in 12 finals. She went 3-for-3 in 2020. And only two of those were at the “lower-level” WTA 250 events (previously called Internationals).
Kudermetova has a doubles title. But this is her first career singles final.
Her biggest title is a WTA “125” in Mexico in 2019, equivalent to the ATP Tour Challenger level.
Tougher Competition for Sabalenka
Sabalenka has faced far tougher competition at the WTA’s season opener.
Her last two wins before Wednesday’s final were against No. 19 Elena Rybakina and No. 22 Maria Sakkari.
But she was also the favorite.
Kudermetova is riding the confidence of a third-set tiebreak win over No. 5 Elina Svitolina.
2021 Australian Open Odds Tracker
Career Highs and Australian Open Position at Stake for Both
If Sabalenka wins she will rise to a career-best No. 7. Being a top-eight player heading into a Grand Slam tournament is a big advantage – especially for someone who has yet to make her first big run at that level.
For Kudermetova, the week’s work has already ensured she will move to a career-high at No. 36.
But unless there are a number of withdrawals ahead of her, that would still make the 23-year-old unseeded in Melbourne.
No one will want to draw Kudermetova in the first round. But it also means she could run into Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep – or even Sabalenka from the jump.
A victory, and a first title, would put the Russian at No. 33. She would be virtually guaranteed to be seeded at a major for the first time in her career.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova Head to Head Statistics
|22 (May 4, 1998)||Age||23 (April 23, 1997)|
|Minsk, Belarus||Birthplace||Kazan, Russia|
|8||WTA Singles Titles||0|
|0||Grand Slam Singles Titles||0|
|No. 10||Current Ranking||No. 46|
|No. 9 (Feb. 3, 2019)||Career High Ranking||No. 38 (Feb. 2, 2020)|
|$6,804,310||Career Prize Money||$1,676,537|
Not Much History Between Them
The only time the two met was nearly six years ago. It was the first round of an entry-level $10,000 ITF Futures tournament in Turkey.
Kudermetova was weeks away from her 18th birthday; Sabalenka was not yet 17.
Sabalenka won. But it’s not much to go on. The two teamed up for a lower-level doubles title back in 2017.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Veronika Kudermetova – Previous Meeting
|2015||Antalya Futures||1st round||6-3, 6-3||Sabalenka|
Despite the somewhat lopsided odds and Sabalenka’s great form, Kudermetova has a definite shot in this one.
She has served better than Sabalenka overall. And she should be buoyed by her third consecutive win over a top-10 player early in the week.
WHAT A WIN!
Veronika Kudermetova closes out a terrific 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 win over second seed Elina Svitolina to make the biggest semifinal of her singles career, blasting 50 winners to her opponent’s 19.
[📽: @WTA TV] pic.twitter.com/MUuPPK9U6S
— WTA Russians (@WTArussians) January 11, 2021
Kudermetova is 4-2 overall against top-10 players, most of it recently.
She’s at +600 to win in two sets and +650 to win in three sets. It might be worth the longshot; this could be her time.
But Sabalenka has shown that she gains momentum during the week and once she gets to the end, she’s like a freight train – hard to stop.
Best bet: Sabalenka in three sets (+295)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.