First round of WTA 500 Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open did not bring falling off of any seeded player, who needed to start the first middle-east swing tournament without a bye. There was still a little bit of drama though, especially during the Monday's top clash between Jelena Ostapenko and Danielle Collins.
Despite the Latvian being seeded, it was "Danimal" who had been rated slightly higher by the pre-match odds. The beggining of the match confirmed that, as the American was playing better and better with every game, holding her own serves and gaining the first break in 7th game after a few stunning winners, showing her masterclass backhand force from time to time. The first momentum switch started, when Collins could close the first set, but did not manage to hold serve within a 5-4 score, and lost 3 games in a row since then. That has not discouraged her though, as she started second set on a front foot, winning four games in a row and forcing the decider after winning the set 6-1 in just 30 minutes.
The third set started with another momentum switch and a drama caused by the obscenic behaviour of the member of Ostapenko's team. Third game was a though challenge for Collins, who needed to face breakpoints, but saved 4 of them really well. Unfortunately, during the play on deuces, the American got insulted by the person from Ostapenko's player box, which was placed near to the service baseline. The American adressed this issue to the chair umpire, but surprisingly no action was taken. Collins lost this game and find herself in a difficult position being a break down and clearly distracted by the obnoxious behavior of the opponent's well-wishers. Despite that, "Danimal" fought back and gained the re-break, being even 5-4 up within the Latvian's serve. The tight ending of the match did not go on the favour of Collins though, as another momentum switch happened on the favour of Ostapenko, who gained the decisive break in 11th game and won the match 7-5 1-6 7-5 in general.
It's a difficult start of the year for Collins, who faces quite a unique bad luck in her draws, getting a need to overcome very dangerous players in the first rounds, or in the early stages in general. In combination with losing the majority of points from last year's Australian Open final run, the American fell down to 42th place in WTA ranking right now. There is a bright side though, as the most importantly, Danielle looks healthy and has not too many points to defend in the next few months, so we can surely expect her comeback to the top areas of ranking very soon.
The other interesting match-ups of first round in Abu Dhabi have not come to fruition. Paula Badosa was supposed to play against Liudmila Samsonova, while Garbine Muguruza who received a wild card, was paired with Karolina Pliskova in a former number-ones clash. Unfortunately, both Spaniards needed to pull out of the tournament. Badosa caught up the viral illness, while Muguruza withdrew due to personal reasons. Their places in the draw were given to lucky losers - Claire Liu and Ysaline Bonaventure. Both players did not use their chance though, as Samsonova defeated Liu 3-6 6-2 6-0 and Pliskova gave away just 4 games to Bonaventure winning 6-1 6-3.
A small number of fans who visit the tournament stands during this week could also enjoy another two interesting three-setters. Beatriz Haddad Maia faced some threat in a great match-up against Maria Bouzkova, being a set down, but showing a flawless performance since then and advancing to second round with a score 4-6 6-3 6-0.
Another result which could be consideres as an upset was a win of Yulia Putintseva against Bianca Andreescu. The US Open 2019 champion who needed to pull out of the semifinal match in last week's Thailand Open due to a shoulder injury was clearly not at her best after such a short time of rest, having no response for smart play of the Kazakh who won 7-6 6-2.