ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Sofia Kenin opened her season Thursday by beating Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Open.
The American hit 11 aces against Yang to set up a second-round match against Kirsten Flipkens.
“Obviously a little bit of nerves. I had to try and find my groove,” said Kenin, the Australian Open champion who will try to defend her title next month. “First set was quite tough for me. I couldn’t find the ball, I guess. But second set I showed up strong and of course I feel like it’s because of the lack of matches for me.”
After a long preseason, Kenin said she was happy to beat a player who had already had match practice in qualifying, but she had concerns about her own fatigue toward the end.
“I was like: `I just want to finish already. I’m too tired,”‘ Kenin said.
Second-seeded Elina Svitolina had to contend with the wind changing direction as she won 6-4, 6-3 against American Jessica Pegula.
“The conditions were not easy today, with the wind going around the court and changing all the time, so I tried to really stay focused on what I had to do on the court,” Svitolina said.
Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova hit seven double-faults in a tough match against 278th-ranked lucky loser Despina Papamichail before winning 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Also, fourth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka came back after trailing 5-3 in the opening set to beat Polona Hercog 7-6 (5), 6-2, sixth-seeded Elena Rybakina defeated Lucrezia Stefanini 6-1, 6-3, Hsieh Su-Wei upset eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), and Sara Sorribes Tormo beat French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska 6-3, 6-3. American teenager Coco Gauff won the first 11 games in her 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Ulrikke Eikeri.