Abu Dhabi | Watson upsets Kudermetova, as Collins ousts Osaka

Heather Watson, a former British No 1, upset 9th seed Veronika Kudermetova in the 1st-round of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open on Tuesday, while Danielle Collins ousted former World No 1 Naomi Osaka, also in straight sets.

I say some pretty harsh words about myself. I know the word, but if I say it, it sounds really bad. I felt a little like a failure, but I don't want to be too harsh.... Everyone around me is telling me I'm playing well and I don't think I'm playing bad. I just need to believe in myself more and, I think, as soon as I got broken my belief dipped a lot. Naomi Osaka

It was an impressive start for Watson, who booked her place in the main draw after defeating former Grand Slam champion Sofia Kenin from the USA and Spain’s Rebeka Masarova in qualifying, ahead of continuing her run with another convincing display on Tuesday afternoon.

The 31-year-old met the World No 16 from Russia, who had replaced Jelena Ostapenko in the draw after the Latvian, the title winner in Linz last week, withdrew from the WTA 500 tournament.

Despite the 140 place gap in their rankings, Watson dominated the match from the outset and deservedly prevailed, 6-3 7-5, after an hour and 43 minutes.

The current World No 156 raced out to a 3-0 lead before Kudermetova earned one of the breaks back, but the Russian could not back it up and immediately lost her serve again, winning just one point behind her second delivery in the first set.

Neither gave much away in the second, although Kudermetova squandered a 40-15 lead in Watson’s second service game, and another crucial break arrived for the Briton in the 11th in the tight set before she sealed the win after seeing 2 match points come and go and nailing the third.

“Obviously I know she’s such a great player, so I knew I had to play really well today,” Watson said on-court after her win. “I just focused on what was in my control, my serve and just trying to be as aggressive as I can because otherwise she’ll beat me to the punch. But yeah, played really well and had a lot of fun out here.

“I played a Grand Slam champion [Sofia Kenin] in my first [qualifying] round, so that gave me a lot of confidence and every player here is so good. So I think that really helped and I knew the conditions and I felt really prepared for today.”

The win is her first over a Top 20 player since beating Elina Svitolina at Miami in 2022, and sets up a Last 16 meeting with Spain’s Cristina Bucsa in the next round, before the winner takes on Danielle Collins or top seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals.

Bucsa, a lucky loser in the draw, got past China’s Wang Xinyu, 5-7 6-0 6-3, in an hour and 52 minutes.

Danielle Collins edged the first set and bagelled the second against former World No 1 Naomi Osaka in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Collins ended her match by winning 9 straight games to take down Japan’s Naomi Osaka, 7-5 6-0, in the 1st-round, also on Tuesday, in a rematch of their 2022 US Open meeting.

Osaka, who was given a wild-card into Abu Dhabi, is returning to competition after 15 months away from the tour giving birth to her child, Shai, while Collins has said she is retiring at the end of season.

In the windy conditions, neither was troubled on serve early on, with the first deuce of the contest coming in the 10th game when Collins served to stay in the set, but the American shook off the pressure to hold for 5-5.

Collins created the first break point opportunities of the match in the 11th game, and converted her second chance to inch ahead 6-5.

Despite coughing up a couple of double-faults, Collins managed to close out the opener on her 4th set point to take the lead after 54 minutes.

They each dropped just 2 points behind their first serve over the first set, but it was Collins that capitalised on her chances, and, with the wind in her sails, the former Australian Open finalist soon went up a triple-break 5-0 against Osaka in the second.

Osaka tried to narrow the deficit, but Collins played flawlessly on the break points, saving all 6 that she faced on her way to a 2nd-round meeting with the top-seeded Rybakina.

The 30-year-old American won 30 of her 35 first-service points, 86%, while Osaka held a 7-5 edge in aces.

Naomi Osaka showed impressive form in the opener against Danielle Collins but fell away in the second set

© Francois Nel/Getty Images

After the match, Collins, who previously had announced that 2024 would be her last, said that she had wanted to have a certain date set to retire from the sport, but that is no longer the case as she is currently feeling good about herself.

“I feel like I’m in good form even though it’s my last year,” she said. “I feel like I needed an end date. I’ve enjoyed my time on tour and had fun and gotten to have some amazing experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Right now it’s not over yet. I’m still competing and battling.”

Collins will be hoping that the recent result will help her gain more confidence, after having had a disappointing run at the Australian Open where she lost to the current World No 1 Iga Swiatek in the 2nd-round, 6-4 3-6 6-4.

As for Osaka, she said she was trying not to feel ‘like a failure’ after her latest set-back.

“I say some pretty harsh words about myself,” said the former World No 1. “I know the word, but if I say it, it sounds really bad. I felt a little like a failure, but I don’t want to be too harsh.”

Osaka also lost in straight sets in the doubles later on Tuesday, alongside Ons Jabeur, but feels that performance helped her shake off her earlier disappointment.

“I’m less confident, but I’m not too unconfident to think that I can’t play really good tennis,” the 4-time Grand Slam champion added. “I really think I just need to get through a really tough match and then, sort of, acknowledge that that’s going to happen quite a couple of times.

“Everyone around me is telling me I’m playing well and I don’t think I’m playing bad,” she continued. “I just need to believe in myself more and, I think, as soon as I got broken my belief dipped a lot.”

Osaka will now head to Doha for the Qatar Open and says she also might play Dubai but is unsure of that as yet.

No 8 seed Liudmila Samsonova dropped just one game against Lesia Tsurenko to open her Abu Dhabi campaign

© Ryan Lim/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, No 8 seed Liudmila Samsonova of Russia needed just 51 minutes to oust Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, 6-0 6-1, while Anhelina Kalinina, also from Ukraine, outpaced Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti, a lucky loser, 6-1 7-6(1), Poland’s Magda Linette defeated wild-card Alexandra Eala from the Philippines, 7-6(4) 6-1, and Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, another lucky loser, edged past Czech qualifier Linda Noskova, 6-3 3-6 6-3.



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