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Sabalenka vs van Uytvanck tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Sabalenka avoid the upset in her first match as a top-10 player?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 30 Jan 2019
  • Aryna Sabalenka faces Alison van Uytvanck in the second round of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy
  • Sabalenka vs van Uytvanck is live from St Petersburg on Thursday at 2.30pm local/11.30am GMT
Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)

Can Aryna Sabalenka avoid the upset as she faces Alison van Uytvanck at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy in her first match as a top-10 player?

The newest member of the top 10, Aryna Sabalenka, finally gets her St Petersburg Ladies Trophy campaign underway on Thursday as she takes on Alison van Uytvanck for a place in the quarterfinals.

Sabalenka’s Australian Open campaign ended in the third round at the hands of Amanda Anisimova – one young breakthrough star being stunned by one even younger – but it was still enough for her to become the third Belarusian to rank inside the WTA’s top 10, following in the footsteps of Natasha Zvereva and Victoria Azarenka.

It was, perhaps, a slightly disappointing result for a player many fancied as a dark horse for the latter stages of the tournament or even the title, and of course Sabalenka will have hoped for more. But breaking into the top 10 is a huge achievement and a proper perspective should be maintained on that, and just how excellent Sabalenka’s results have been to make that happen. Twelve months ago, she was outside the top 50 and losing in the first round of the Australian Open to Ashleigh Barty, with just one WTA final and zero titles to her name. Now she’s world no. 10, with runner-up finishes in Lugano and Eastbourne and titles in New Haven and Wuhan among her impressive achievements for 2018, while she has already picked up a third career title – the smallest so far – at the International-level Shenzhen Open in 2019, beating Maria Sharapova (via retirement), Tatjana Maria and Alison Riske on the way.

Sabalenka doesn’t have too many points to defend until the grass-court season, really, so she could push even higher in the rankings in the next few months – although she will be eager to prove she can excel on the Grand Slam stage as well as on the regular WTA Tour. 

The Belarusian, who also made the third round of the doubles of the Australian Open with partner Elise Mertens, is making her second appearance at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy after losing in the first round of qualifying to Donna Vekic in 2017. This year, she comes in as the top seed and benefited from a first-round bye – can she join the likes of defending champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals?

Sabalenka will have to avoid an upset at the hands of talented Belgian Alison van Uytvanck in order to do so.

Alison van Uytvanck (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Van Uytvanck was a French Open quarterfinalist in 2017 and upset defending champion Garbine Muguruza at Wimbledon last year in a stellar performance, which are probably the two best results that she is known for, but she has not yet put together the kind of consistent results which would see her rank inside the top 30.

Ranked as high as world no. 37 in August of last year after winning her second career title in Budapest in February and going on to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon with the aforementioned upset of Muguruza (and a win over another seed, Anett Kontaveit), van Uytvanck also reached the semifinals of Linz before 2018 was over. She comes into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy ranked world no. 52 and off the back of a January that was not spectacularly successful – she went 1-4, retiring to qualifier Bibiane Schoofs in Auckland, losing to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round in Hobart and to defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the first round of the Australian Open.

Van Uytvanck’s solitary win in 2019 before this week was a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory over Madison Brengle in Hobart, but she opened her campaign with a solid victory over veteran compatriot Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-4 to set up this clash with Sabalenka, which I personally think she has a good chance of winning. Van Uytvanck is a good indoors player, she’s attuned to the conditions and she’s beaten Sabalenka before, ousting the Belarusian 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in Mallorca last year – right before Sabalenka’s corner-turning run to the Eastbourne final.

For Sabalenka, this is a good test against a tricky player who can definitely threaten her. Will she be able to do what she couldn’t do against Anisimova in Melbourne – either execute her own big game well enough to win, or find something else to try if that doesn’t work? How effectively can van Uytvanck take away her time? The Belgian is only 1-7 against top-10 players, but it’s notable that she’s mainly faced steady counterpunchers like Wozniacki. Will she have more success against an error-prone powerhouse like Sabalenka? I think the upset might be on.

Sabalenka vs van Uytvanck St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy tennis is live from Saint Petersburg on Thursday at 2.30pm local/11.30am GMT

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Sabalenka vs van Uytvanck tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Sabalenka avoid the upset in her first match as a top-10 player?

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