Top seed Aryna Sabalenka had little difficulty dispatching Jil Teichmann to advance to the quarter-finals of the Qatar TotalEnergies Open in Doha on Wednesday, but 2nd-seeded Barbora Krejcikova fell at the hands of Jelena Ostapenko while Coco Gauff took out the No 3 seed, Paula Badosa.
I’m really glad, actually, to see her [Ons Jabeur] back playing after she retired against me in Sydney. She had these back issues. I’m very happy to see her back on the court. She’s a really great person. It’s always tough to play someone you’re good friends with. Anett Kontaveit
Other seeds, Anett Kontaveit (4), Garbiñe Muguruza (5), Maria Sakkari (6), Iga Swiatek (7) and Ons Jabeur (8), all progressed safely through to the last 8.
Sabalenka set up her quarter-final contest against Swiatek with a 63 minutes rout of the left-handed Swiss, Teichmann, 6-2 6-1, while the 7th-seeded Pole took a minute longer to oust Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 6-0, in their 3rd-round match-up.
“It was an amazing match, I really played well today,” Sabalenka said. “She played well as well, but maybe I was a little bit more lucky today.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable, so I enjoyed every second on court.”
After a level start to reach 2-2, Sabalenka took charge to win the next 6 games in a row, grasping control of the match, striking 26 winners and avoiding a double-fault to make up for her 13 unforced errors.
Although Teichmann pulled one game back in the second set, Sabalenka proved irresistible in the next 4 games and easily sealed her place in the last 8.
Effectively, the Belarusian overpowered the Swiss and did not allow her a look-in to the match, turning around her recent run of losing to 3 of her last 4 matches to players ranked outside the Top 40 this year, and overcoming issues with her serve of late.
Sabalenka, the 2020 Doha champion, is seeking to win her first title since last year’s Madrid Open in May.
Her next opponent, Swiatek, has not lost a set in her last 3 matches in which she surrendered just 11 games combined.
Against Kasatkina, from 2-2 in the first set, Swiatek won 10 of the last 11 games after saving 2 break points to hold, and then securing the decisive break that earned her the opener in the next game.
She went on to bagel the Russian in the second, beating Kasatkina for 3rd time this year
Sabalenka won the only previous meeting with Swiatek, which came last fall at the AKRON WTA Finals Guadalajara where the Belarusian came from a set down to win, 2-6 6-2 7-5, in the round-robin stage.
Meanwhile, Ostapenko, the 15th seed from Latvia, claimed her 5th major victim when she downed Krejcikova, 6-3 6-2, in 73 minutes, extending her winning run to 8 matches going back to her title run in Dubai last week, and including 5 Grand Slam champion scalps.
Ostapenko dropped out of the world’s Top 50 last year, but the 24-year-old is closing in fast on a return to the Top 10, having climbed to 13 in the rankings ahead of this week.
She proved far too strong for World No 3 and reigning Roland Garros champion Krejcikova, breaking the Czech’s serve 5 times and saving 5 of the 7 break points she faced.
Ostapenko won 67% of her first-serve points to Krejcikova’s 65%, while the 2017 French Open champion won 43% of her second-serve points compared to the defending French Open champion’s meagre, 22%.
The Latvian is bidding to win a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time in her career.
In the quarter-finals, Ostapenko will take on a two-time Grand Slam winner in Muguruza, the 6th seed from Spain, who is also a former World No 1.
The Spaniard was in fearless form, needing just 63 minutes to stun American Madison Brengle, 6-0 6-2.
A two-time Doha finalist in 2018 and 2020, Muguruza finished as runner-up to Petra Kvitova both times, and is eager to win the title this year.
Muguruza saved all 3 break points she faced, while making good on 5 of the 9 break points she carved out on the American’s serve, setting up a quarter-final match against last week’s Dubai champion Ostapenko over whom she holds a 3-1 head-to-head record, although this will be their first meeting since 2017.
In the other match featuring a Spaniard and an American, 14th-seeded Gauff got the better of 3rd-seeded Badosa, springing a 6-3 6-3 upset after 77 minutes.
The 17-year old converted 5 of the 10 break points she had on Badosa’s serve, while saving 2 of the 3 break points she faced, and Gauff finished the match with 26 winners, 14 more than the Spaniard’s 12.
For a place in the semi-finals, Gauff will now take on No 6 seed Maria Sakkari after the Greek came through her round-of-16 match against another American, 9th-seeded Jessica Pegula, 6-4 7-5, in an hour and 44 minutes.
Itching for a rematch against Pegula, who dispatched her at the Australian Open, Sakkari delivered the goods to reach the quarter-finals in Doha for the second straight year.
After taking a week off after her run to the St. Petersburg final earlier this month, Sakkari has looked sharp in Doha, not having lost a set.
Gauff has also yet to drop a set in Doha, becoming the 5th 17-year-old to reach the Doha quarter-finals ahead of their 18th birthday.
The American, who turns 18 during Indian Wells next month, is bidding to become only the second player under 18-years-old to reach the Doha semi-finals. Sharapova accomplished the feat in 2005.
Elsewhere, the line-up was completed by 8th seed Ons Jabeur and 4th seed Anett Kontaveit, who have the chance to rekindle their friendly rivalry again here in Doha.
The Tunisian dispatched Czech Tereza Martincova, 6-1 3-6 6-3, while Kontaveit got the better of Belgium’s 16th seed Elise Mertens, 6-3 0-6 6-2.
Jabeur leads the head-to-head against the Estonian, 3-2, although her last win, which was in the quarters of the Sydney Tennis Classic, came as a result of Kontaveit’s retirement.
The encounter with Martincova proved to be a roller-coaster ride for the Tunisian, who won the first set but went missing in the second, before fighting back from a break down to take the match in the decider.
The 8th seed now takes on the in-form Kontaveit, who is on 7-match winning streak, as she bids for her first Qatar Open semi-final.
Kontaveit shrugged off a second set bagel to beat Mertens, a former champion in Doha, and admitted to mixed emotions in facing her good friend Jabeur in the last 8.
“I’m really glad, actually, to see her back playing after she retired against me in Sydney,” Kontaveit said. “She had these back issues.
“I’m very happy to see her back on the court. She’s a really great person. It’s always tough to play someone you’re good friends with.
“I have a lot of respect for her as a person, as well, so I’m ready for the fight and it’s just going to be an interesting match.
“I think she’s a great shot-maker and just always plays an entertaining match. It’s going to be fun.”
This is the 3rd time in 4 tournaments played this year that Kontaveit is into the quarter-finals.
In the first set, the Estonian held from 0-40 down at 2-2 and secured the decisive break of Mertens’ serve in the next game.
Although the Belgian staved off 2 set points on her own serve in the 8th game, Kontaveit emphatically served out a one-set lead to love.
“I think Elise is a very tricky opponent for me to play against,” she said. “I haven’t had a good record against her, so I was really happy with the way I managed to fight, especially in the third set.
“After losing the second set 6-0, I really had to elevate my level and just play more solid and just do better than I did in the second set.”