The Mubadala World Tennis Championship kicked off with three enthralling matches on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi.
Here are some of the key takeaways…..
Maria shows positive signs
Maria Sharapova has suffered over the last couple of seasons but can be happy with her night’s work, seeing off the challenge of Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.
The Russian recovered from a slow start, slipping to 0-3 in the first set against her Australian opponent who she was facing for the first time.
The five-time Grand Slam winner look tentative particularly when serving, but soon found her rhythm through some of her trademark ground strokes.
She might not have gone into the night putting too much emphasis on a win, but a familiar clenched fist to go 5-4 up in the first showed that winner’s edge is certainly still there.
Both players struggled on serve, Sharapova possibly still protecting her troublesome shoulder, but it was the 32-year-old who would produce the better of the tennis to come from behind to pick up the win.
Nobody was expecting vintage Sharapova, but in terms of a step on the road to returning to the tour, this was a step in the right direction.
Tsitsipas maintaining his form
It wasn’t too long as Stefanos Tsitsipas was winning the ATP Tour Finals and he is clearly still in fine fettle.
He spoke this week of his desire to break into the world’s top three, and produced a display against Andrey Rublev of a man high on confidence.
The Greek struck the ball beautifully against his Russian opponent – while still looking like there were a couple of gears left to go through.
Rublev himself produced a solid display but slid to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat.
Tsitsipas will now take on Novak Djokovic in the semi final.
Having earned a semi-final clash with World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, Tsitsipas added: “Competition between us is very intense and it’s difficult test this early in the season. I need to be focused.”
Khachanov sees of Chung
Karen Khachanov might have been a late call up to the MWTC but looked a good nick to outgun South Korea’s Hyeon Chung.
Chung has missed much of the season through injury and started slowly against the Russian, but fought his way back into contention as the set went on eventually losing out on a tie break.
Khachanov has spent the last three weeks in Dubai preparing for the new campaign and got the better of an entertaining second set to clinch a semi final berth against Rafa Nadal.
“The match was filled with intense rallies and some good service returns. It was played at a good level and I think the crowd really enjoyed it. I played a serious match, tried out some new things and it felt nice,” said Khachanov, who revealed he is undaunted by the prospect of facing the 19 Grand Slam-winning Spaniard for a place in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship final.
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