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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Dubai Tennis: Aryna Sabalenka takes on Belinda Bencic in battle of future stars

Belarusian, 20, faces 21-year-old Swiss in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday

Aryna Sabalenka has quickly risen to inside the world's top 10 and is set for a bright future. Reuters
Aryna Sabalenka has quickly risen to inside the world's top 10 and is set for a bright future. Reuters

Those fortunate enough to have Centre Court tickets at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for Wednesday's evening session are in for a real treat.

First up is the tie of the third round as defending champion and world No 6 Elina Svitolina takes on two-time grand slam champion and former world No 1 Garbine Muguruza. This is undoubtedly the glamour match of the day, with two established stars battling it out for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, the match to follow is just as enticing as two talented young players offer a glimpse into the future of the WTA Tour when Aryna Sabalenka faces Belinda Bencic.

Sabalenka, 20, has taken the tennis world by storm, rising from No 73 in the world rankings at the start of last season to No 9. The Belarusian's powerful, relentless game has led her to three WTA titles already, including in her season-opening event in Shenzhen.

The 2018 WTA Newcomer of the Year, Sabalenka's rise has been so sharp she is now considered a leading contender in each tournament she enters. In Dubai - where she began with a 6-4, 6-0 dismantling of Ivana Jorovic - that is no different.

Her opponent on Wednesday may be only 14 months older, but Bencic is vastly more experienced, having shot to world No 7 as a precocious 18 year old.

Tipped to be a constant presence at the top of the game, Bencic's career has been beset by a string of injuries, and she arrived in Dubai as the world No 45.

The Swiss has started the season encouragingly, though, reaching the semi-finals in Hobart and the third round of the Australian Open before losing to eventual finalist Petra Kvitova.

Given their current levels Sabalenka, who thrashed Bencic in their only previous meeting at New Haven last August, will start this match a clear favourite.

Regardless of the outcome, this is a great opportunity for fans to witness two players with designs on shaping the future of women's tennis compete against each other.

Updated: February 20, 2019 02:19 PM

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