Sakkari, Korda and Kostyuk continue to shine

 - Alex Sharp

The 2021 season is up and running, so here is your latest instalment of events on court

Sebastian Korda during his match against Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros 2020©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Live tennis is back on the agenda with the players well and truly back in competition.

The Australian Open has been rescheduled to early February as the tennis world continues to adjust to the global pandemic.

In a positive tilt, players have plenty of time to fine-tune their games in lead-up tournaments or extended training blocks ahead of a trip to Melbourne.

Elina Svitolina at Roland-Garros 2020©Philippe Montigny/FFT

All stars in Abu Dhabi

Four of the WTA Top 10 led the field in the opening event of 2021 at the Abu Dhabi 500.

Second seed Elina Svitolina saved two match points to overcome Ekaterina Alexandrova to edge into the quarter-finals. Aryna Sabalenka is managing to maintain her 2020 tail-end form, extending a winning streak to 13 on Monday with a third consecutive semi-final spot.

World No.22 Maria Sakkari is also welcoming a sharp start.

"I’m super happy that I can play this way, because other years I was struggling a lot in the first couple of weeks. Slowly, slowly, I’m feeling some things from my off-season."

The Greek had already navigated past Anastasia Potapova and Coco Gauff, prior to a blistering 33 winners sling-shot past Garbine Muguruza. All without dropping a set.

The conviction, the oozing confidence was on show in a 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 turnaround facing top seed Sofia Kenin. Sakkari took 24 of 31 points in the decider, highlighting that productive off-season.

Sakkari versus Sabalenka next, make sure you tune in.

Marta Kostyuk, who managed to qualify for Roland-Garros in October, has earned her maiden WTA 500 quarter-final.

“I have to say that of the Top 100 I’m probably one of the least experienced. Even though I’ve played for three years, I skipped a lot because of injuries,” said the Ukrainian teenager, following a series of impressive displays in Abu Dhabi. If you can catch highlights of her topsy-turvy rollercoaster facing Hsieh Su-Wei, please do!

“I didn’t play a lot of high-quality, high-level matches, and I can feel it when I’m on tour.

“I’m confident it will come with time. I’m more patient now, I’m trusting the process more.”

Korda embracing the Agassi connection

Remember Sebastian Korda’s captivating run through qualifying all the way to facing his idol Rafael Nadal in the Roland-Garros 2020 fourth round? Well, the Next Gen American is building momentum on home soil.

The 20-year-old, boosted by a training block with legendary couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, has reached his first ATP quarter-final at the Delray Beach Open.

Korda continues to combine pulsating power and a calm persona to rattle through wins. American No.1 John Isner awaits, in a rematch of their Roland-Garros second round, which was a memorable win for Korda.

"We've been in contact pretty much almost every single day for the past I'd say, three, four, months. He's an awesome person to have in my corner and I'm super grateful for that,” explained Korda, beaming he is able to learn from Agassi.

"The last day I was like 'I gotta get a photo, this is awesome.' It was super cool. The first day I was doing two-on-ones with my dad (Petr Korda) and Steffi, those are some pretty good ball-strikers. I had Andre on my side, so I was like ‘this can't be real.’"

Melbourne ticket in sight


Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, coached by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, secured victory in his first ever Grand Slam qualifying match.

The 17-year-old, who sparkled on the Challenger Tour in 2020, was joined in the second round of Australian Open qualifying (in Doha) by the encapsulating Dustin Brown.

Embracing being back at a first Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2018, Ana Konjuh launched her qualifying quest in Dubai.

Clara Burel smiling at the Challenge Elite FFT 2020©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Konjuh, hindered by four elbow surgeries, quelled a comeback from fourth seed Anna-Lena Friedsam to advance alongside the likes of French prodigy Clara Burel (pictured), Mayar Sherif, Timea Babos and US Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova.

Keep up to date with all the latest across Australian Open qualifying HERE.