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Sabalenka vs Kenin tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – 2017 runner-up Sabalenka begins Tianjin Open campaign against dangerous Kenin

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 8 Oct 2018
  • Aryna Sabalenka faces Sofia Kenin in the first round of the Tianjin Open
  • Sabalenka vs Kenin is live from Tianjin at 2.30pm local/7.30am BST
Aryna Sabalenka (WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

Now up to world no. 11, Aryna Sabalenka begins her Tianjin Open campaign against the determined Sofia Kenin, another rising WTA star, on Tuesday. 

Can Aryna Sabalenka keep her WTA Finals Singapore hopes alive as she takes on Sofia Kenin in the first round of the Tianjin Open on Tuesday?

Sabalenka’s chances of making one of the elite eight at the season-ending championship are slim anyway, with the Belarusian currently in tenth place on the Road to Singapore but almost 600 points behind the player currently in eighth place, Karolina Pliskova. Sabalenka would probably need to win both this week’s Tianjin Open and next week’s Kremlin Cup in Moscow to have a chance, and she would still need Pliskova to lose early. 

Sabalenka during her defeat to Wang in Beijing  (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)
But it says something quite impressive that, firstly, we aren’t quite putting a run like that past Sabalenka, and secondly, that she’s in a situation to even be part of the conversation two weeks ahead of Singapore when 12 months ago she was still ranked outside the top 100. 

Tianjin played a key role in Sabalenka’s rise, as it was the place that she reached her first WTA Tour final, beating Sara Errani and Duan Ying-Ying on the way, and raised eyebrows – those that weren’t already raised by her role in Belarus’s surprise run to the Fed Cup final – with her performance in a 5-7, 6-7(8) defeat to Maria Sharapova. 

After making her second WTA Tour final in Lugano last April during an otherwise fairly quiet start to 2018, Sabalenka really just exploded on grass after teaming up with former ATP World Tour pro Dimitry Tursunov as coach, making an eye-catching run to the Premier-level Eastbourne final before losing to Caroline Wozniacki. And she brought that momentum and intensity to American and Asian hard courts, reaching the semifinals of Cincinnati, winning New Haven and making the round of 16 at the US Open (where she was the only player to take a set from eventual champion Naomi Osaka) and then claiming her second career title at the Premier-5 Wuhan Open before beating Garbine Muguruza and defending champion Caroline Garcia to make the quarterfinals of the China Open.

Wang Qiang stopped Sabalenka’s run in Beijing with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over the Belarusian, succeeding spectacularly in reeling Sabalenka in after the Wuhan champion raced to a 3-0 lead and frustrating her into too many unforced errors with her superb movement around the court and variety off the ground. But it’s still been an absolutely sensational run for Sabalenka, and it has taken her not just into contention for the WTA Finals Singapore, but to a career-high ranking of world no. 11.

I thought Sabalenka might pull out of Tianjin given her recent feats, but there she is in the draw as the fourth seed, on a potential semifinal collision course with Pliskova and preparing to face Sofia Kenin in the first round. 

A year younger than Sabalenka at 19, Kenin is also at a career-high ranking coming into Tianjin and on the brink of a milestone achievement – in her case, a first appearance in the top 50 after rising as high as world no. 51. 

Sofia Kenin (Photo by EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / AFP) 
A former US Open junior champion back in 2016, Kenin recorded a stellar 47-28 season in 2017, predominantly playing ITF events, which saw her reach three finals and no fewer than seven semifinals as she pulled herself up over 100 places in the rankings from world no. 214 to world no. 110. Kenin failed to qualify for every WTA Tour event she attempted, though, although she did reach the third round at the US Open, and her challenge in 2018 is clearly to carve out a niche for herself at WTA Tour level. 

Kenin has spent part of 2018 playing ITF events, winning the ITF Berkeley $60k in July and making the quarterfinals of the Dohan $80k in April, but she has spent much of 2018 playing WTA Tour events and trying to carve out a niche for herself – and so far, it’s going very well. A quarterfinalist at the International event in Auckland in January, Kenin successfully qualified for Indian Wells, Miami, Mallorca (where she made the semifinals) and Wuhan two weeks ago, where she beat Su-Wei Hsieh and 11th seed Julia Goerges to make the round of 16.

Kenin was also a semifinalist in Quebec City and won matches at both Wimbledon and the US Open, where she made the third round, so it’s been a very successful season for the Russian-born American. 

Defeated in the first round of qualifying for the China Open by Heather Watson, Kenin will be significantly better-rested than Sabalenka, with the amount of tennis the Belarusian has played in recent weeks a real concern when it comes to Tianjin. 

This will be the second time in the space of two weeks that Sabalenka and Kenin have played, with the two facing off in Wuhan where Sabalenka won 6-3, 6-3. It’s a fairly simple equation, with Sabalenka a much more powerful and aggressive player than Kenin, who is something of a grinder and scrapper who relies on great defense but is also keen to transition into attack wherever possible and find ways to sting her opponents even if she can’t blow them off court. That leaves the ball rather in Sabalenka’s court, but also makes Kenin a very difficult opponent for her. After so much unprecedented success and so much tennis played by Sabalenka recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if she struggled to muster or maintain the necessary focus to hit through Kenin as she begins her Tianjin Open campaign.    

Sabakenka vs Kenin Tianjin Open final tennis is live from Tianjin on Tuesday at 2.30pm local/7.30am BST

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Sabalenka vs Kenin tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – 2017 runner-up Sabalenka begins Tianjin Open campaign against dangerous Kenin

Aryna Sabalenka vs Sofia Kenin live streaming, preview and predictions for the Tianjin Open first-round match on Tuesday 9 October 2018: Sabalenka must beat fellow youngster Kenin in Tianjin to keep slim hopes of reaching Singapore alive

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