Sabalenka, Mertens lead title charge in Linz

World No.11 Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens lead the title charge at the 30th edition of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, held at the Linz Tips-Arena from November 7 to 15.

Top-seeded Sabalenka will open her campaign against World No. 94 Jasmine Paolini of Italy. The 22-year-old from Belarus is seeking her third trophy of the season following her triumphs at the Qatar Total Open in Doha and at the Ostrava Open two weeks ago.

This was the result of the draw ceremony that took place on Sunday afternoon on Center Court presented by Linz AG. For many years this long-time sponsor has been involved in creative opening events at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz. This year, on occasion of the 30th anniversary of the tournament and the 20th anniversary of the Linz AG, the draw ceremony was held digitally with a picture puzzle on the large center court scoreboard. Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and Austria’s Julia Grabher attended the ceremony. “Thanks to the organizers for always coming up with such creative ideas,” said Cirstea, one of the three lucky fairies. “This digital ceremony was very unique. I loved it and it brought a lot of smiles of our faces. I want to thank Sandra Reichel, who is for me the best tournament director in the world, and the WTA for trying to keep us safe in these tough times. All my respect! I am really lucky and grateful to be able to do my job in these difficult times.”

Mertens meets qualifier

Elise Mertens, No. 2 seed of the WTA International Event, will play Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina in the first round. “I had four days off after Ostrava and then I started practicing again,” Mertens told journalists during Sunday’s media day in Linz. Alongside Sabalenka, the 24-year-old Belgian clinched the doubles title at the WTA Premier event in the north-east of the Czech Republic.

“Aryna was on fire that week,” said Mertens. “We struggled a bit in our first doubles matches but then we managed to get the win. We were a team on court, and she took the title in singles, too. It was an unforgettable week for her.”

The Upper Austria Ladies will be the final WTA tournament of the season. “It’s one more week and I’m mentally as well as physically prepared for a tough one. I don’t know what to expect but of course I always try to win,” Mertens is motivated for the start of the main draw on Monday.

Yastremska sets high goals

World No. 29 Dayana Yastremska of the Ukraine will open her title bid against Greet Minnen from Belgium. “I want to win the tournament,” the No. 3 seed said about her goals for this week and added: “I will also try to play a different style of a game.”

Ekaterina Alexandrova rounds out the Top 4 seeds in Linz. The 25-year-old Russian will face Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic in her opening match.

Qualifiers complete main draw

In Sunday’s final round of qualifying, five players have earned a spot in the main draw: Oceane Dodin of France (6-2, 7-5 against Laura Ioana Paar from Romania), Jana Fett from Croatia (6-1, 4-6, 6-2 against Irina Bara of Romania), Anhelina Kalinina (6-0, 6-4 against fellow Ukrainian Katarina Zavatska), Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic (6-2, 1-6, 6-3 against Sabine Lisicki of Germany), Stefanie Voegele from Switzerland (6-2, 3-6, 6-2 against Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove from the Netherlands), French Harmony Tan (leading 4-1 when Jaqueline Cristina from Romania was forced to retire).