Australian Open holder Sofia Kenin piled on 10 aces in a Thursday defeat of Chinese qualifier Yang Zhaoxuan to start the new season with a 7-6(4), 6-2 first-round victory in Abu Dhabi.
The American who also reached the autumn Roland Garros final, admitted she needed to get adjusted to a fast surface in the first edition of the tournament which will serve as a warmup prior to heading to Melbourne late next week for 14 days of pre-Australian Open COVID-19 lockdown.
The top seed, with her unorthodox no-look serve toss, ended with 45 winners as she crushed the No. 788, whom she beat with the loss of three games in their first meeting in Wuhan three years ago.
Kenin last played last October and admitted she needed to shake some rust out of her game in the first set, which took more than an hour.
But the 22-year-old found form in the second to close out victory against one of a dozen players in the tournament field ranked outside of the Top 200.
“It was the first match, so there were a few nerves, and I was tired at the end,” the winner said, “It was quite windy.
“I needed to find a groove in the opening set but I started the second set strong.
“I’ve got a lack of matches, but I’m happy with how I played… I’ll need to improve though, if I’m to do well here.
“Conditions were not easy and it was a little bit frustrating, but I’m glad I got the win.”
Yang, who converted on just one of 13 break points, has won just two main-draw singles matches but reached the Roland Garros doubles final in 2018.
Kenin now takes on Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, whom she has defeated twice,
Main photo:- Sofia Kenin winning first round match in Abu Dhabi – courtesy WTA