Doha | Kvitova and Muguruza open with wins, as Halep and Svitolina exit early

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Defending champion Petra Kvitova and last year’s finalist Garbiñe Muguruza successfully opened their accounts at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open inDoha on Tuesday, but former champion Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina checked out early, dispatched by Caroline Garcia and Tereza Martincova respectively.

I have been here so many times and lost two finals. I was so close to holding the trophy but I looking forward, one day, take it home. Garbiñe Muguruza

Also safely into round two are last week’s Dubai winner Jelena Ostapenko, Anett Kontaveit, Coco Gauff and Elise ©.

Kvitova exacted revenge on Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-3 6-1, having lost to the Romanian two weeks ago at St Petersburg.

The Czech won 82 per cent of points behind her fearsome first service and converted 5 of 6 break points to snuff out any Begu ambitions in just 55 minutes.

The two-time Grand Slam winner will face Elise Mertens, the Belgian 16th seed, who outlasted Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, 6-3 2-6 7-5.

Muguruza, who also reached the final here in 2018, started slowly but eventually found her groove to beat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, 7-6(4) 6-1, after an hour and 28 minutes.

“It is a very good start in Doha,” she said. “I feel like I started slow, and she was playing very aggressively since the beginning.

“It took me a lot of effort to catch up. I think that first set was the key. I had to bring something different, better energy, better game, so I did.

“I’m very happy that I was able to go through this tough match.”

The Spaniard lost her serve early, in the 2nd game, but struck back by breaking Cirstea to force the first set into a tiebreak, in which they were tied at 3-all until Muguruza picked up the pace for a 5-3 cushion, and then quickly closed out the set.

She was unstoppable in the second, breaking Cirstea 3 times to seal the deal with ease.

Although Cirstea had 7 more winners than Muguruza, she also made 16 more unforced errors than the Spaniard and was outnumbered on break points by Muguruza, who broke the Romanian 4 times.

Asked about changing her tactics mid-match, Muguruza said: “Yes, a little bit. I have so many times in these situations. But I had to come back and bring back better energy and better attitude and my game.”

The Spaniard hit fine form at the end of last year, finishing the season with a flourish.

“It was amazing winning the 2021 Season-Ending Championships,” she said. “I am finding my level, the year’s long so I am just very excited at that great victory. I want to keep playing well.

“I have been here so many times and lost two finals. I was so close to holding the trophy but I looking forward, one day, take it home,” Muguruza added.

The first player through to round three, Muguruza awaits the winner of the match between American Madison Brengle and Victoria Azarenka, the 12th seed from Belarus.

Last year’s finalist Garbiñe Muguruza beat Sorana Cirstea to open her Doha campaign

© Mohamed Farag/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Garcia, a wild-card from France, upset past former World No 1 Halep, 6-4 6-3, in 1 hour and 34 minutes, unleashing 5 aces on the way and handling the blustery conditions better to topple the 30-year-old Romanian.

After both held serve, Garcia broke in the 10th game to take the first set and, with momentum now well on her side, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman broke the Romanian again early in the second.

It was Garcia’s second win over the 2014 Qatar champion, who is now ranked 27 in the world after an injury-filled season last year.

“It was a very good match on my part,” Garcia said after the match. “It was very tricky with the wind and cold weather … and against Simona, it’s always a great battle against her.

“Today, I was very happy to stay very aggressive and positive every point.

“She had a good week in Dubai last week, and in Australia as well, so she’s full of confidence.

“I didn’t win a lot of matches at the beginning of the year; it was kind of complicated for me, but every match is a match, and you have to fight from the first point to the last one.

“I did it very good today and I’m very pleased with my performance,” Garcia added. “I’m working every day and hopefully I can get some more wins, more confidence and play better.

I’m very pleased to be able to come back tomorrow.”

Garcia is now set to face 14th seed Coco Gauff in the second round in Doha.

The American snapped a 3-match losing streak with a 6-2 6-3 defeat over compatriot Shelby Rogers, firing 8 aces and racking up 22 winners in total, with her net play particularly impressive.

Caroline Garcia (R) shakes hands with Simona Halep after upsetting the former World No 1 in Doha

© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

Making only her second main draw appearance, Czech Martincova delivered a memorable performance to beat Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina in the three gruelling sets, 6-7(2) 7-5 7-6(5) in in 2 hours 59 minutes.

With gusty conditions playing havoc with both players’ games, the clash was unpredictable and featured 19 breaks of serve in total, and little in the way of momentum at any point.

In the first set, Svitolina seemed to fare better adapting to the wind, striking a better balance between playing conservatively and using the weather to her advantage.

A frustrated Martincova struggled to control her groundstrokes, while judicious net approaches paid off for Svitolina, but the former World No 3 faltered twice when it came to serving out the set, but dominated the ensuing tiebreak.

In the second, it was an improving Martincova’s turn to repeatedly take and lose the lead.

Despite being pegged back twice by Svitolina, who found her best tennis when behind, the Czech held firm, with the World No 42 winning 13 of the last 16 points from 5-4 down due to some timely big serves and Svitolina’s forehand going awry.

Svitolina seem to right the ship in the decider, but became tentative and error-prone when it came to closing it out, and Martincova made her pay, finding a superb pass to break back and then sealing a knife-edge tiebreak by hammering an off forehand winner of her own.

The result was a reversal of the pair’s only previous encounter, which Svitolina won in straight sets in the second round of Indian Wells last year, and the 4th-longest match of the 2022 season so far.

Martincova, 27, claimed her 4th career Top 20 win, 3 of which have come in the past 12 months.

Svitolina, whose best result in Doha was a sole semi-final run in 2019, falls to 5-8 overall in the Qatari capital, while season record now stands at 3-5.

Martincova will next face lucky loser Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands got past Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, who was fresh off last week’s Dubai final, 7-6(5) 6-4.

Dubai champion Jelena Ostapenko got her Doha campaign underway with an emphatic win over Oceane Dodin on Monday

Estonian 4th seed Anett Kontaveit joined Muguruza in the round of 16 after beating Croatia’s Ana Konjuh, 6-2 6-3.

Kontaveit had to face 12 break points in the encounter, but she fended off 10 to collect her second win in as many meetings against the World No 51.

The win marks Kontaveit’s 10th match won in 2022, joining just 4 other WTA players in double-digit wins this year.

Kontaveit will face the winner of the match between Kvitova and Mertens.

The Belgian, the 2019 Doha champion, survived a scare against No 44-ranked Paolini from Italy to advance, 6-3 2-6 7-5, in 2 hours 4 minutes, after trailing by a 4-1 double break in the third set, but recovering to win 6 of the last 7 games.

Paolini, who had managed to consistently hit through Mertens with her heavy forehand for a set-and-a-half, was twice 2 points from victory when she served at 5-4 in the decider but, once the Belgian had broken back, the Italian faded, and Mertens raced through the last 10 points of the match.

Elsewhere, Swiss Jil Teichmann took out the No 13 seed from Germany, Angelique Kerber, 4-6 6-3 6-2, in 2 hours and 8 minutes.

Kerber, the 2014 runner-up, was playing just her second match of the season after a positive Covid-19 test disrupted her Australian swing.

The German showed flashes of her best form, particularly in a solid first set and in fending off 4 set points in a thrilling hold for 5-3 in the second , but Teichmann rebounded after a flat opening set in which she tallied 17 unforced errors to 9 winners to show real fortitude throughout the rest of the match.

It was narrowly contested and full of potential momentum shifts, featuring 9 breaks of serve across the 2nd and 3rd sets, but the No 41-ranked Teichmann was equal to all the scoreboard fluctuations.

Showing off her swashbuckling left-handed forehand and tremendous reflexes at net, Teichmann tallied 26 winners to 23 unforced errors over the last two sets.

As the third set progressed, Kerber’s level dropped, with her unforced error tally mounting to 48 compared to 18 winners, and Teichmann sealed victory with an ace.

Champion in Dubai on Saturday, Ostapenko underlined her intentions when she crushed France’s Oceane Dodin, 6-4 6-1, in 1 hour and 23 minutes.

The 24-year-old Latvian, seeded No 15 in Doha, was in total command, firing 8 aces in a performance that stuttered a little at the start of the match when Dodin jumped to a 3-0 scoreline.

Ostapenko, who lost the Qatar final to Carla Suarez Navarro in 2016, picked up the pieces quickly to nail the next 4 games, and after taking the first set, 3 more service breaks helped the Latvian kick off her Doha campaign.

It was the World No 13’s 6th win in a row in the Gulf, and she now takes on American Amanda Anisimova, who was a straight-sets winner against Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia on Sunday.

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