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Aryna Sabalenka targets a spot in the quarter finals of the Adelaide International when she faces American, Bernarda Pera on Wednesday.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Bernarda Pera is live from Adelaide on Wednesday, 15 January from 4:00pm local time/ 5:30am GMT
Sabalenka missed out in last week’s season opener in Shenzhen, where she was beaten by Kristyna Pliskova in the second round. The Belarusian, who was the defending champion at the tournament, opened with a convincing 6-3 6-0 victory over Margarita Gasparyan, but she failed to cross the next hurdle, losing 6-4 6-4 to Pliskova.
Can she get past Pera on Wednesday and reach her first quarter final of the season in Adelaide?
Sabalenka’s title winning run in Shenzhen at the start of last season was a continuation of her sharp rise from the previous year. The Belarusian was ranked outside the top-70 at the start of 2018, but she had moved to the brink of the top-ten by the end of the season, and looked set to continue that climb when she opened 2019 with a title in Shenzhen.
However, she lost her way somewhat after that. She did not make another final until San Jose in August, but what was shaping up to being an underwhelming campaign was boosted by very strong finish. Sabalenka found her best form towards the end of the year, winning Wuhan for a second straight season and closing her campaign with another title at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.
In the end, three titles and a year-end ranking of 11th don’t look too bad after all. There’s plenty of improvement still to be had this year, part of which will be to make a push at the Grand Slams- she has never been past the top-ten- and establish herself inside the top 10.
The start wasn’t great, but she’s got another chance to build up some momentum this week as she gets ready for the Australian Open. The 21-year-old goes up against Pera in Adelaide on Wednesday.
Pera is aiming to reach her first quarter final since August, when she made the last eight in Bronx.
The left-hander did her best work on clay last season, reaching semi-finals in Prague, Lausanne and Jurmala, while she also won a clay-court ITF 100K title in Trnava. She won just six WTA main draw matches away from clay, two of them coming in that quarter final run in Bronx.
Pera first broke into the world’s top 100 in 2018, but she’s been in and out since then, dropping as low as No. 115 in May last year, and peaking at a career-high No. 63 in July following her semi-final run in Jurmala.
The 25-year-old started her 2020 season in Brisbane, where she lost to Marta Kostyuk in the qualifying rounds, but she scaled the qualifying hurdle in Adelaide, beating Katie Boulter and Coco Vandeweghe to reach her first main draw of the season. She scored a very good win in her opening round, taking down Barbora Strycova 7-6 6-3 to set up Wednesday’s meeting with Sabalenka.
Pera defeated Sabalenka in their only previous meeting on the clay of Madrid in 2018, but the powerful Sabalenka should be able to get her revenge in their first hard court encounter on Wednesday.