Third-round pairs were determined on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open with the completion of all second-round matches. The day featured the biggest upset of the 2021 season so far, as third seed Karolina Pliskova fell to a player ranked 286 spots below her.
Even though just 50% of her first serves got in, sixth seed Elena Rybakina defeated Wang Xiyu 6-4 6-4 without dropping serve. Just to remind you, Rybakina opened last season by reaching the championship match at four of her first five tournaments, including a title run at Hobart.
Marta Kostyuk recorded a rollercoaster victory over Hsieh Su-Wei. After failing to close out a 6-3 5-1 lead, the Ukrainian teenager rallied from a break down in the third set to win 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 in two hours and 14 minutes.
Karolina Pliskova became the tournament’s first big casualty. The third-seeded Czech fell to Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova 6-2 6-4, who is making her main-draw debut this week in Abu Dhabi.
The world No.292 Gasanova claimed her first Tour-level victory over former world No.23 Mona Barthel in straight sets in the first round and then stunned the sixth-ranked Pliskova, her first ever opponent ranked inside the Top 100!
The 21-year-old Gasanova said at the post-match press conference:
It was not me on the court. I was so sure of myself. I’m really happy right now.
Second seed Elina Svitolina cruised past former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva 6-4 6-1 in just over an hour.
Svitolina’s third-round opponent will be Ekaterina Alexandrova, who knocked out British Heather Watson 7-5 6-7(7) 6-3. After winning the first set, the 17th-seeded Alexandrova dropped a 4-1 lead as Watson won the second set in a tiebreak. In the decider, Alexandrova never had her serve endangered and a crucial break in the eighth game led her to victory.
Alexandrova picked one of the best outfits from Fila’s Fall Heritage collection. I really like the skirt’s pleated hem and the full coverage tank’s striped V-neck. The color of the outfit is called ecru.
Former No.1 Garbine Muguruza enjoyed success in the Middle East last year, reaching back-to-back quarterfinals at Dubai and Doha. Today, the fifth-seeded Spaniard moved into the third round in Abu Dhabi after a 6-1 6-4 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Late on Saturday, ninth seed Maria Sakkari completed the third-round lineup by overcoming young star Coco Gauff 7-5 6-2. Sakkari recovered from a bad start, came back from a double break down in the first set and advanced despite hitting nine double faults.
The Abu Dhabi third-round pairs are as follows:
 Kenin vs.  Putinseva
 Sakkari vs.  Muguruza
 Sabalenka vs.  Jabeur
Kasatkina vs.  Rybakina
Kostyuk vs. Zidansek
Sorribes Tormo vs. Gasanova
Badosa vs. Kudermetova
 Alexandrova vs.  Svitolina