Doha | Swiatek and Kontaveit to meet in Qatar Open final


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Iga Swiatek continued her impressive form at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open by reaching the final with a straight sets win over Maria Sakkari, where she will meet Anett Kontaveit, who brought Jelena Ostapenko’s Middle East run to an end in the semi-finals.

I haven’t changed my technique or anything, so it’s a lot to do with confidence. How you approach the match, how you’re approaching the service games, I think if you’re trying to be aggressive […] that has a lot of effect on the serve. Anett Kontaveit

Swiatek, the No 7 seed from Poland, took down Sakkari, the Greek 6th seed, 6-4 6-3, while Kontaveit, seeded 4th and from Estonia, emphatically dispatched Latvia’s Ostapenko, the 15th seed, 6-1 6-4.

For 20-year old Swiatek, who had not beaten Sakkari in 3 prior meetings, she overcame a major hurdle to reach her 2nd career WTA 1000 final, the first time on a hard court, after an hour and 28 minutes of stunning tennis.

In her previous WTA 1000 final, Swiatek thumped Karolina Pliskova 6-0 6-0 to win the Rome title last year.

“These matches, when I play against players that I really didn’t have a good head-to-head before, it shows I did a good job changing that,” the 2020 French Open champion said after the match. “It’s like a brand new start for me.

“Even though I have been on tour, and my opponents are the same, I feel like these tournaments are different. That’s really great for me!”

Maria Sakkari’s dogged defence could not blunt Iga Swiatek’s aggressive play in the Doha semi-final

© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

Swiatek was in blistering form, striking 20 winners in the affair, while allowing Sakkari only 9, as each player had 8 break points, but the Pole converted 5 to the Greek’s 3.

The World No 8 has now collected 7 Top 10 wins in her career, 2 of which have come here this week, after having toppled top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

Sakkari grabbed an early break at 2-1 in the first set, but Swiatek used sturdy returning to grit out a tough game and broke back for 3-3.

Swiatek’s powerful hitting trumped the Greek’s dogged defence down the stretch, locking up the one-set lead by breaking Sakkari with an incredible forehand winner that clipped the sideline.

They exchanged breaks early in the second, twice, including 3 in a row to love from 2-2 to 3-3, but Swiatek clinched the critical one to move ahead 5-3 when Sakkari struck wide.

A solid error-forcing forehand gave Swiatek her first match point in the following game, and she used that shot again to seal the win.

“[I’m] really excited,” Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. “For sure I showed consistency throughout the whole tournament, and I’m really happy that I could keep my level of tennis at a really high level.”

Anett Kontaveit dominated Jelena Ostapenko in her semi-final in Doha

© Mohamed Farag/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Kontaveit progressed to her 2nd WTA Tour final in a row, with her straight sets win over Ostapenko, and she has now reached 7 tour finals in the last 7 months, extending her current winning streak to 9 matches as she goes in search of a 2nd title of the year.

The Estonian has now matched her best performance at a WTA 1000 tournament, having reached the Wuhan final back in 2018 where she lost to Aryna Sabalenka.

Ostapenko, the Dubai champion, carried her own career-best 9-match winning streak into the all-Baltic clash, but came away with her 4th loss in 5 pro encounters with Kontaveit, the Latvian’s only win in the series being in the Eastbourne final on grass last July, which was followed by a loss in the St Petersburg semi-finals.

Kontaveit snatched the early momentum to comfortably take the first set 6-1, and although the Latvian tried to make amends in the second, putting up more of a fight, her efforts were overpowered by the Estonian, who edged out the set to win the match.

Serving superbly, Kontaveit fired 4 aces to Ostapenko’s 1, and she also won 68 per cent of points on her first serve, and 64 per cent of points on her second, while the Latvian’s success percentage dwindled to 53 on her first serve, and 48 on her second.

The accuracy of Kontaveit’s game proved too much for the wilder Ostapenko, who could not get a foothold in the match and has now lost 4 of her 5 meetings with the Estonian.

A challenge in the 4th game as Ostapenko seemingly wrapped up a love hold for 2-2 with her first ace went Kontaveit’s way, which rattled the Latvian, who produced a cascade of errors that continued until she trailed by a double break in the second set.

“Honestly, when I made that challenge, I was down 0-40 on her serve – I was thinking, why did I do that?” she said afterwards. “But it ended up working out pretty good.

“Every point I’m trying to compete as hard as I can, regardless of the score.

“In the end, the net cord definitely saved me a little bit – I was down break point and she had really found her game.

“She was playing more aggressive and finding the court a lot more, so I was under a lot of pressure and got really lucky.

“But I served some second serves, placed them really well eventually, and managed to close it out.”

Following that challenge, Kontaveit won 24 of the next 26 points, mostly on wildly slapped Ostapenko errors on the first or second stroke of the rally.

Ostapenko had been in top form the day before, striking 39 winners against Garbiñe Muguruza in just 66 minutes, but she leaked 20 unforced errors in a 25-minute first set.

Kontaveit captured it having tallied only 3 winners and 2 unforced errors, and her 8-game streak took her to a 3-0 lead in the second set.

Although Ostapenko got one back in the 4th game, she failed to convert either of her 2 break points in the 10th game, and the Estonian World No 7 served out the match.

Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, was broken 4 times across the match, and was able to break Kontaveit just once in 4 attempts.

Jelena Ostapenko could not match the magnificent form she found against Garbiñe Muguruza on Thursday and fell to Anett Kontaveit in their semi-final match in Doha on Friday

© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

“She [Ostapenko] can outplay anyone, and then she might not find the consistency, sometimes, so you have to be ready for that,” Kontaveit said in her post-match press conference.

“I was trying to play a consistent match, and just do my best on my serve, and hold on to it, especially in the second set when I was a break up.

“Sometimes when she’s on fire, her returns are unplayable, and it’s just very difficult, but I kept repeating to myself, ‘I’m really good at serving it out, I’m really good at serving it out,’ and eventually managed to do that.”

Rock-solid serving has been the foundation of Kontaveit’s surge into the Top 10, and enabled the World No.7 to scrape over the line.

“I haven’t changed my technique or anything, so it’s a lot to do with confidence,” Kontaveit said. “How you approach the match, how you’re approaching the service games, I think if you’re trying to be aggressive […] that has a lot of effect on the serve.”

The Qatar TotalEnergies Open final will be the 5th time that Kontaveit and Swiatek face each other, having split their 4 career meetings equally with 2 wins apiece, but the Pole won the most recent pair last year, at Roland Garros and the US Open.

“I felt like [Kontaveit and I] always had good rhythm maybe on court, and that’s why the rallies were long,” said Swiatek. “We were kind of even in everything.

“I don’t know how it’s going to be right now, because the last match I played against her was basically before she had that great streak at the end of last year.

“I’ll be ready for anything, honestly. Every match is a different story.

“Anett showed she’s really consistent and I really respect that, because how she played during the past few months, it’s been amazing.

“I just hope it’s going to be a good show. I hope I’m going to be able to play my game and just look forward.”

Coco Gauff & Jessica Pegula won their first doubles title together, beating Veronica Kudermetova & Elise Mertens in the final on Friday in Doha

Also on Friday, unseeded Americans Coco Gauff & Jessica Pegula notched their maiden team title with victory in the Qatar TotalEnergies Open doubles final, ending the 7-match winning streak of Dubai champions and No 3 seeds Veronika Kudermetova & Elise Mertens, 3-6 7-5 [10-5]

Gauff & Pegula staged a come-back win in an hour and 40 minutes to claim the title at the WTA 1000 event.

“We’re super excited,” Pegula said afterwards. “I don’t think we were expecting to win the tournament, let alone a 1000.

“We said before, seriously, last week was the first match we won together. We have teamed up before but we’ve had some first-round exits.

“It’s good to kind of find our chemistry a little bit on court and get that going. That obviously paid off a lot this week.”

Gauff added: “I always knew that we had the ability to be a good team.

“We both do well in singles, and both of us do well in doubles with other partners, so it was, like, we have the tools. We just need to figure out how to use them.

“Finally this week, even last week, we kind of got the machine starting, and this week it just kind of ran through.”

Russia’s Kudermetova & Mertens from Belgium clinched the first set in 37 minutes, but Gauff & Pegula rebounded in a closely-contested second, breaking the Kudermetova serve at 5-5 to grasp the pivotal service break and queue up a decisive match-tiebreak.

A Gauff swinging backhand volley winner to end the first point of the match tiebreak set the tone, and the Americans leapt out to a commanding 5-1 lead.

The unseeded pair methodically advanced to championship point at 9-4 following a netted forehand by Kudermetova.

A Gauff backhand miscue erased one match point, but the American slammed a service winner on the second to wrap up victory and a massive WTA 1000 title.

Gauff grabbed the fourth and biggest WTA doubles title of her career this week. Her three previous titles all came at WTA 250 level alongside regular partner Caty McNally.

It is a second career WTA doubles title for Pegula, who won her first doubles title earlier this year alongside Asia Muhammad at WTA 250 Melbourne Summer Set 1.

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